Saturday, March 28, 2009

Direct Feed

I've started a Twitter feed specifically for this blog here. After this post, I will use that feed for any future announcements of blog updates unless I decide it isn't working out. I'm not sure if I will keep the Twitter widget on the right hand side or not, since just showing Twitter updates that I've posted here wouldn't make any sense. However, some of you might like my random thoughts and chronicles of my day, so we'll see.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Back in the Game

You've probably already seen this if you follow my Twitter feed, but in case you haven't, I'm going to be joining the ranks of the employed again soon (in a little less than two weeks, to be exact). I will have a contract position at my former client, and on the same team, but in a different role working on an ongoing project. I'm very happy to have landed this, not just because it's work, but also because I'll be working with people I really like and helping implement something that will add a lot of value for the company once its underway. I'm looking forward to being back there.

I'm still going to be writing in this blog, though, even if the past two weeks might make it seem like I've forgotten about it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Are Job Fairs Worth It?

Remember me? It's been a while. I've been busy with the same stuff, and am still doing a lot of job hunting. One aspect of job hunting that I've been thinking about this past week is job fairs.There's going to be one here in the Twin Cities this week sponsored by a certain large job site. I was thinking about going to it, but today decided against it. Here's why:

-- I don't know who's going to be there. The certain large job site was supposed to list the participating companies, but hasn't yet. For all I know, it could be companies that wouldn't have anything for me even if the market was strong. It's hard to do research on the attendees when you don't know who they are.

-- I might not get to speak to hiring managers. They could be there, but it's also just as possible I will be talking to an intern or someone else who is representing the company, but doesn't actually have any hiring authority. And that's assuming the company is actually hiring. Sometimes, companies attend just to collect resumes or promote themselves. Nothing wrong with that, but my time is limited.

-- It's a lot of work for an unknown payoff. I'd have to spend a lot of time preparing for this to be effective, doing things like printing more resumes, getting my interview outfit ready, researching the companies, preparing specific pitches to these companies, and so forth. Now, the counterargument is that I should be doing these things anyway, and I'll cop to that. But it doesn't change the fact that I'd be going in mostly blind. I think you need to take risks, but you also have to be smart about using your time in a job search.

-- There will probably be a ton of people there looking for work. As such, it makes it harder to get a chance to actually talk to anyone.

-- There's plenty of other ways I can look for work that would be as effective. It's 2009. Not only are there numerous job sites and aggregators, there's company websites, social media, and online networking sites, not to mention all the recruiters and staffing firms I could talk to (and I do all of these things). Job fairs are just one option of many.

Now, are there reasons to go to a job fair? Sure there are. For example, there might be presentations that look interesting or feature speakers you've heard good things about. There could be services such as resume critiques or interview coaches that would be worth checking out. Additionally, if it's a fair for a specific company or industry that you know is hiring, then it's probably worth going to.

Generally, though, I think you need to think about whether a job fair is worth your time. In my case, I think there's job hunt activities I can do that day that will be more effective.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Run Silent, Run Deep

So, after a week where I managed to post every day, I follow it up with one where I don't post until Friday. I've had a busy week, though -- met with recruiters at two staffing firms, attended my HOA's board meeting, and had the usual homework, job hunting, and stuff around the house to do as well. Next week promises to be pretty full too, but I want to do a better job of regular posting.

In the meantime, I suggest you check out my wife HR Minion's blog. She's currently working as a contractor after working in an exempt position for the past two years, and she discusses some of her recent thoughts and experiences here, here, and here. The other entries are excellent as well -- but of course, I'm biased.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

One Week Later

Well, I made a commitment last Saturday to post each day this week, and I'm glad to say I've kept it. Granted, yesterday's post was very light, but they don't all have to be weighty dissertations.

I will say that I think I'll have an easier time posting regularly from here on, as long as I don't take any long breaks. If you do something often enough, it becomes second nature. Despite posting every day this week, I still have a backlog of topics I want to post on, so I don't think I'll have trouble keeping the pace up.

I'm not sure if I will post tomorrow or not; I will have some stuff to do to get ready for a busy week ahead. But we'll see.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Movie Day

Well, today's going to be the equivalent of those times in school where the teacher just puts on a movie for the hour. What can I say -- Watchmen comes out today. See you tomorrow!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Logistics of a New Gig

So, you've landed yourself a freelance or contract gig and are all psyched up to start. It's a very exciting time! However, before you begin working at your new job, there are some logistical details you will need to find out in order for everything to go smoothly:

Where exactly is the job located? You should find this out before your first day, when you're running late due to forgetting something at home, need to put gas in the car, etc. Use GoogleMaps to find out how to, and if you're taking mass transit, figure out which routes you need to take, where to get on/off, and how much it costs. Also, does the employer provide onsite parking (in the downtowns of large cities, they often don't), and will you need to register for a permit to use it?

Who do you report to? Besides their name, you should get their phone number and title if possible as well. Additionally, if you were placed through an agency or consulting firm, you should have the contact information for the people you work with there as well in case there's a problem and they need to verify something with the client.

How will you be paid? I'm assuming you will know how much you're getting paid, but there's other things you should find out too. On what day will you be paid? How do you submit your hours -- do you need to fax in a timesheet, enter information in an online system, etc.? When does that information need to be entered by? Who approves your hours, and if they can't do it by the required time, who is there backup? Who do you contact if there's an issue?

If it seems like there's a lot of questions to ask there, you're right -- there is. I can't begin to tell you how many issues I've seen with this over the years from myself and other people. They all get worked out, of course, but it can save a lot of worry and frantic phone calls to know all of this up front.

What's the dress code? Nowadays, these run the whole range from allowing t-shirts and shorts to requiring suits. Business casual seems to be the standard nowadays, but you can't assume this. If for some reason you don't know what the requirement is, dress up. It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

What are the building hours, and when specifically are you expected to be there? It's important to know the earliest and latest times you can be in the building in case it comes up, and if there is weekend access. Additionally, you should find out when they would like you to report on your first day and what hours they expect you to keep going forward (they may have exact requirements, as is often the case in a call center, or they may not care at all). Furthermore, are there holidays or other days when the location will not be open? This could affect how much you're paid that week depending on what you get for holiday and vacation pay.

If you can think of anything else that's good to know before starting a new contract or freelance position, let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What's In A Name (And Does It Matter)?

I chose the name for the blog that I did because I was looking for something that could serve as a catch-all for the types of workers I blog about. It's not something I would use in everyday discussion, of course. Mostly because, while I think it's a nice blog title, I think it would sound pretentious and dorky to seriously refer to oneself this way.

This does raise the question, though, of just what exactly you should call yourself. Obviously, if you do mostly freelance work, then "freelancer" works just fine. However, it gets muddier when you get your paycheck from a company that pays you to work at a client full-time. Are you a consultant, a contractor, a temp, a vendor, or what?

Honestly, I don't think it matters very much, if at all. One client I worked at referred to everyone who worked onsite but wasn't paid by them as contractors, another one called them all vendors. Meanwhile, the staffing firm I've worked at most recently calls us all consultants. "Temp" seems to have falled out of widespread use except for certain specific meanings (like a temp-to-hire employee). What about companies that call themselves consulting firms -- how are they different from a firm that calls itself a staffing company if they do the same thing? This all gets confusing very quickly if you let it.

So, don't let it. Odds are very good that you'll have an official title that addresses what you do anyway, so just use that and note on your resume that it was a contract or consulting position, whichever you think better reflects the nature of what you did.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

In the Pipeline

Reflecting on my recent posts, I realized that I haven't talked much about the original focus of this blog -- that is, the working life of us hired guns. So, I'm going to remedy that in the near future with some stuff I have in the works that's more devoted to consulting, contracting, and temping than the more general career discussions I've had lately.

Here's some topics I'm going to be looking at, though I make no promises as to when I will post on them:

-- Your staffing/consulting firm and you
-- Contract positions for newbies (focusing on people moving into these from permanent positions)
-- Permatemps, and why companies use them
-- What you need to know before starting a contract, consulting, or temp assignment
-- The difference between contractors, consultants, and temps (short answer: pretty much none)

In addition, there will be posts on more general topics as well as I feel like doing them.

By the way, I added a number of links to the blogroll over there on the right that I think you'll find interesting. If you have a blog or website that you'd like added, and it's related to the subject matter on this blog (even loosely), let me know in the comments or send me an email, and I will consider it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Too Much Information

When you're writing your resume (in your pajamas, not your best Brooks Brothers suit, I might add), it's important to know what needs to be on there and what shouldn't. Over at, HR blogger Ask a Manager has a great blog post titled 7 Things to Leave Off Your Resume that's very much worth a read.

Some of these are widely known -- for example, it's not common practice in America to include a picture of yourself unless it's for something like an acting or modeling gig. Also, it's widely agreed that a third page is a bad idea outside of very specific situtations. But a few of these are actually things many people do, such as including objective statements (seriously -- your objective is to get a job, hello?) and including proficiencies that are obvious or extremely common in 2009 (like being able to use Word). Not everyone will agree with all of the advice -- I've worked with some recruiters that wanted me to list every single individual software program I knew, for example -- but it's all at least worth considering.

Check it out and see what you think. Plus, check out the author's main blog as well. Which reminds me, I need to update the blogroll...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

All Dressed Up, and Nowhere to Go

(Note: astute readers will notice that this blog has gone through a few different visual incarnations lately. I changed the template back to this one after deciding I didn't care for the others.)

I don't know about you, but I usually don't spend my days at home sitting around in a suit and tie. Frankly, it's an accomplishment if I'm wearing socks. No, when I'm home, I keep it casual.

And yet, there's quite a few articles and blog posts about there on job hunting that say you should get dressed each day as if you're going to work when doing your job search.

Why? This doesn't make any sense to me.

I suppose the reasoning is that, by putting on your work clothes, you get in the business mindset and are more likely to treat your search like a job, with regular hours and a structured day. Now, the treating-it-like-a-job part is something I agree with. Most of us need structure to get the best use of our time. But the clothes? I don't agree there. Being professional and focused is something you should be able to do no matter what you're wearing, and I think that most of us are perfectly capable of staying on task, writing great emails, and talking to recruiters and contacts on the phone while wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants.

Of course, I don't like saying "never" on this blog. If you really finds that this helps you, then by all means do it and don't let me tell you otherwise. And obviously, if you're going out and meeting with people face-to-face, you should look professional. But for day to day searching of job websites, maintaining your social media networks, and researching companies? Bring on the bunny slippers.