How I Became a Better Candidate This Week

It’s been somewhat– make that *definitely*– frustrating to be a week from turning 58, and seven months into search for employment, without a lot to show for it. ‘The Great Recession’ might officially have been over a while ago, but you wouldn’t be able to convince my bank account of that.

There’s an old adage about ‘with age comes wisdom’, and while I’ve locked in several important facts of Life years ago– never guess a woman’s age; don’t drink and drive; forget playing one more game of basketball after a shaky left knee has signaled ‘time to go’– the factors about becoming a better candidate for career Next’s shouldn’t have been major revelations.

The Reality is, I ABSOLUTELY knew this stuff, and though I’m not generally a List Guy, three specific ‘oh, rights!’ that support the premise have come through crystal clear.

1) However its phrased, look ‘I could never do that’ in the eye and accomplish one small step towards a goal anyway.

2) Stay in touch with those who really count in your search (including ‘cheerleaders’)

3) SSDD (same stuff/different day) won’t get what you desire, even assuming you know what that is

On the first point, I’ll give a shout out to Jeff Haden; I read two pieces of his thought-provoking philosophy on Monday, and I’m going to make it a habit to continue feeding my mind similarly going forward.

The most obvious change I made was putting my book, ‘CARDS & CONSEQUENCES: Return of Marlena the Magnificent’ into a book contest (please check link at the end), and then posting that fact in two places, as ‘currently happening’ on LinkedIn profile and in ‘LinkEds and Writers’. The question I had to ask myself was, why DIDN’T I think I could do those simple and obvious things to publicize something I’d put so much effort into achieving? Even if I’m not chosen for a share of Bookbzz’s $$ in first contest, $25 on the credit card *should* get me some level of reviews, and thats kind of important in a bigger picture. The ‘C’ in CDTalent Enterprises stands for Confidence, so you have to believe in yourself/the product at least that much.

I sent a short note to the artist who’s supposed to be working with me on a children’s read-along book for the South Carolina Hugh O’Brian Youth organization. Without his production, the two years-plus of material I’ve written is left in limbo. Our last meeting was late August and I hadn’t seen a single thing more from him; I needed to push things, get concrete results. My first boss out of college told me (as a ‘road guy’/regional rep for TIME, Inc.) that nobody would throw People magazine out of their stores if I pushed for getting it displayed at the register; what did I have to lose if the artist didn’t produce after I asked him to come through with what was needed/expected?

Staying in touch, especially with recruiters and references, definitely counts. To show how serious I was about entering home solar power industry in the sales area with a major energy company, I found a relevant article about real estate industry financially recognizing solar on house as an asset, and e-mailed it with a short note to person I’d done a phone interview with. Then I cc’d several references, including Charlotte Works counselor, to let them know what I was considering, sales being a very different idea from administrative areas that have been my focus.

I talked to a recruiter from a temp agency about re-taking some tests, because I know my home equipment contributed to lower than expected scores, and the possibility of getting short term gigs HAS to go up when you’re perceived as being more capable, right? Why not take the obvious step?

As for SSDD, doing same things and expecting different results is supposedly the definition of insanity, and I’m a writer, not crazy. Okay, I’ll always consider myself a writer no matter what I do for a regular paycheck, and blogging 3x/week like this (and LinkedIn contributions) was a New Years resolution; I also fixed old information on three job boards, so I’m taking righteous small steps in that direction.

I’m also figuring out how to do links: http://bookbzz.com/cards-consequences-by-glenn-shorkey

Close Enough on ‘Madam Secretary’, 3.6MM French March, Rowling v. Murdoch

Having already sent out two more resumes with cover letters this morning and knocked off final third of a nursed-through-the-weekend terrific cigar brother Steve gifted me with for Christmas, it seems legitimate to put the end of a drippy, contemplative Monday afternoon in Charlotte towards honoring a New Years vow to blog 3x a week.

Last night was the first time watching ‘Madam Secretary’, and kudos to the writers who nailed Tia Leone’s struggle about going to the funeral of a slain prep school classmate, a Bahranian prince she’d convinced, in a 1-1 post-private dinner discussion, to honor certain beliefs he’d espoused years before. Viewers who didn’t see he’d be killed by *someone* who felt 180 degrees differently about what he said back in his own country must be blind to what would happen, especially given recent events in the real world and TV drama.

Her bind was obvious: Having been told that, even as the representative of the United States government, she would have to view the funeral from behind a screen with the other women, how could she acquiece, knowing it would undoubtedly be viewed as accepting another cultures regard for women (slavery was a major sub-topic to show) as less worthy than any other man’s ability to pay their respects?

I appreciated her solution, flying all night to speak privately with the greiving King vs. not paying final respects to a cherished friend at all, or raising a major furor by trying to insist on bulldozing the custom. One small detail: Even if the King agrees to meet with his dead son’s friend just before the event, and she wears a respectful head scarf, you don’t show up wearing makeup and pants.
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3.6 million Frenchmen march over the slaughter of Charlie Hepdo cartoonists by Muslim extremists? Sacre bleu! Who knew they cared that much about anything? That the event caused such an over-whelming response, can we somehow start to think that killing of ‘others’– with the twisted notion it will cause events one group or another finds disrespectful to totally cease– will be repudiated by the masses that radicals pretend they represent? There didn’t seem to be any similar reaction to Chechens slaughtering 400 children in a raid on Russia what seems like soooo long ago, nor the 140+ killed at a school for the children of Pakistani military more recently.

I live in Charlotte, NC– ‘The Buckle on the Bible Belt’ as many proclaim it— and I am grateful EVERY DAY that I don’t have to worry about someone from one (of a couple thousand) churches deciding to strap on an explosive device and kill believing-in-a-somewhat-different-way worshippers while shouting ‘God is Great!’

The animals that call themselves Boko Haram, taking DAYS to destroy multiple villages and systematically kill over 2,000 is beyond comprehension; don’t even try to tell me there was a reason or God involved with that.

Rowling’s succinct tweet about Murdoch’s comment re: Islamic extremism and the worlds Muslim population being represented by violent action, didn’t actually convince me of anything being totally wrong with what Murdoch foolishly tried to get out in 140 characters. I question his methodology more than any essential fact— which has been noted above and on previous occasions– that seeing the words ‘Muslim extremists’ in front of so many brutally negative events doesn’t bring up the idea “they aren’t representative of the Muslim religion.”

Murdoch owns an un-Godly (?) number of media outlets around the world; screw a 140 character tweet! Put a thoughtful, double-truck message in the middle of all those newspapers about how that violence scares people, the distrust that living next door to someone who might walk into your grocery store tomorrow and kill you and a dozen friends engenders! Have your FOX network people throw 30 seconds of your minimally expressed thoughts out for consumption on a massive scale, or are you afraid ‘they’ will punish you?

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On a much lesser topic, how could Dez Bryant’s catch in game vs. Green Bay be overturned? I’ve heard the ‘control-going to the ground’ explanation of the rule, but he was CLEARLY controlling the ball in left hand and took two strides after the catch before it bounced off the ground on impact. I watch a lot of TV football, scream regularly about ‘defenseless’ 6’5″, 260 lb. behemoths getting whacked at the instant they make a catch because they shouldn’t be hit when a QB squeezes a throw into the foot of space between defenders. Not a catch? Sorry Cowboys, you got stiffed.
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As for Clooney’s comments, including how glad he was to be Amal’s husband after accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, it was one more large brick in the huge personal Manhood he represents. He got married when HE was ready, to a beautiful, smart, All That Woman, and while humble about “whatever alchemy,” he wasn’t apologizing for it taking 53 years to decide.

I respectfully submit three moments that cement my own regard for him: Above all, that he took his DAD into Darfur to “make it less possible for the world to ignore that situation,” knowing full well if the bad guys somehow showed up, they wouldn’t think twice about shooting everyone in that convoy, movie star or not. Second, his grip on fame while defending his aunt (Rosemary Clooney), with comment that “she didn’t suddenly lose all her talent,” when parts that involved her signature singing vanished, pretty much from one year to the next.

Lastly, and I smile at the super cool guy-ness of it, was after Danny Devito went on ‘The View’, still pretty well lit after a night out with Clooney doing shots of Lemongello. Told that Devito had talked about their night out, George gave that killer grin and one-lined it: “Yeah? So how did he do?”

Glenn Shorkey

Grandma Said Being 80 Allowed Saying Anything; I’m Almost 58 and I Can’t Wait

Ask ten managers or recruiters whats most important on a resume, and you will undoubtedly get ten different answers. Having commented/semi-raved about this situation several times, committing to an at-length discussion about unfairness of “ya gotta show ACHIEVEMENT, not *just* did things” mind set seems legitimate. The 6-8 seconds aspect of recruiter viewing is certainly a gripe many others will have too, but for now, lets use three examples regarding resumes and delineating production/achievement relative to executive-administrative assistant roles.

I’ve seen a particular article about the high desirability of ‘soft skills’ several times recently, a factor which I (perhaps immodestly) know I’ve got an abundance of– both freelance writing and significant sales background rely on the Q&A style of determining what needs to be known, rapport building, taking care of whatever blips or situations come up. Communications ability rarely generates verifiable ACHIEVEMENT; most often being the oil that keeps gears rolling smoothly is what makes up the EA-AAs job.

As a temp replacing an EA that handled three VPs, I was the primary coordinator for a quarterly meeting of a 175-190 person Residential Master Servicing group for a bank. I love a challenge, so determining the site (maximum convenience), the menu/costs for feeding everyone lunch, the AV equipment setups, which logo-ed gift the participants would receive and team building exercises were all wrapped in the project.

Yes, there was a sub-set of 9-10 others who helped, especially on idea of gift (a sweet umbrella, large with padded grip) from corporate catalog, but it was my job getting the factors together. That the ballroom location and equipment needs were essentially ‘free’ once the luncheon cost ($17 x 190= approx. $34k) was negotiated was a no-brainer when I presented it to the VP with oversight responsibility. The idea of a scavenger hunt for a team building exercise was, IMHO, brilliant, and everything worked exceptionally smooth. The lady who didn’t put a printout in teams box by ‘zero’ as rest of room counted down end of exercise certainly won’t forget it.

Problem: Sure it was an achievement, the first item at top of my resume on Pg. 2– but HOW MUCH under whatever budget can I claim? Banks were fat then, it was almost a blank check really, but knowing what previous meeting looked like– including having people drive to another part of Charlotte– what magnitude of Great Job is legitimate?

Second: A multi-functional job as Customer Service Administrator, including the quantifying of technician hourly/travel expenses, researching any customer billing questions (and those techs weren’t always great on their documentation), putting together $30-60,000 consignment orders of parts for new locations, and interfacing with three mutually exclusive data bases.

I utilized writing skills several times, with a specific ‘Parts Ordering and Return Policies’ piece being an ‘achievement’. The Parts Dept. was often called on to diagnose what part had failed, based on customer description of a machine not working. Codifying how company wanted callers– generally the guys in the pits with machines, not office personnel– to present needs in 1st, 2nd, 3rd best ways to determine the required part IMPROVED process-efficiency for Parts (diagnosing being a Service situation), but QUANTIFYING that achievement from an administrative POV for resume, hmmmm.

Third: During a reorganization of a 105 person Purchasing department, I was tasked to the change coordinator, and based on my abilities in several areas, became point of contact for five Team Leaders. I didn’t have to make travel plans for all of them, but beyond creating and disseminating all new policies through the e-mail system, DOING for multiple execs or managers is frequently in position descriptions for EAs.

THEN comes the 6-8 seconds of ‘attention’ factor by a recruiter, who we *know* is trying to fill a specific need for their clients– but who often won’t sit with someone to determine the extras their experience/under-utilized skills might bring if known about.

I’m coming back to administrative arena after working in retail during the recession, taking Excel and Outlook courses on line to refresh things I knew cold seven years ago, but while the 112.6% of goal (achievement!) I nailed in 2013 in retail job barely counts, you can’t leave out all that time. Retail paid my bills during a hellacious economic time, and for sure it involved those soft skills and production, yet its not super relevant to the admin-organizational roles I want/need to present in a resume. Two counselors agreed a ‘functional’ resume (without dates!) that minimized retail worked better to promote my previous admin experience; several other recruiters said dates, including when NOT working, were mandatory– clients felt you were trying to hide something otherwise, and yeah, just describing the job wasn’t enough, resume needed to include achievements. I couldn’t tell you how many never responded at all, or number of insurance companies who wanted the sales experience because it was at the beginning (or popped the right word in algorithym).

As a possible fix I’ll offer this:
Like the NASCAR app I came across with a 2000 word limit to describe ‘career experiences’, applications need a heckuva lot more flexibility to include ‘other stuff’, AND RECRUITERS SHOULD READ IT. Sure you’ve got a bunch of resumes for every position, you’re sooooo busy/focused on getting a payoff result, but eliminate a candidate because you only took six seconds and didn’t see an EXACT match for job order that included ‘achievement’, where something like a quarterly meeting *should* count for something, dang it, that’s wrong.

Take a whole MINUTE maybe, tell yourself TODAY is the day you discover a unique, shining example of someone whose paper portrait includes a factor you hadn’t considered. Maybe even call them and ask for an explanation of whatever drew a huh! from you. It’s January baby, if you’re just BSing around the water cooler because (as one recruiter stated) “The only thing I have is a job upselling people who have basic membership on a dating site,” you’ve GOT the time.

Glenn Shorkey