The Hilarity of the Bloated Job Description

If you’ve ever searched for a job online, you’ve seen it: the thousand word job description. You know the one with the sixty bullet points detailing all the expertise the employer is looking for. Applying for a job like that scares the hell out of me for fear that they actually mean it.

hamidreza_ahmadi

FreeImages.com/Hamidreza Ahmadi

It’s as if the job requirement was written by someone who was going to be water boarded if they overlooked anything. Whether such a person actually exists who meets all the requirements is another story. And of course they invariably leave out the most important requirement: that your eyes not roll back into your head when you read the job description.

I once came across a job listing for a program manager requiring a minimum of 18 years of experience. Really? Who comes up with these numbers? If I needed brain surgery and my doctor told me she had only been performing brain surgery successfully for five years, I’d let her operate. But I need 18 years of practice to construct a Gantt chart?

I think the job boards should start charging employers by the word, with an accelerated fee schedule over a certain limit. A thousand word job posting should require the approval of the board of directors. They need a good laugh too.

Dear employer. We get it. The job has a hundred different little tasks we might be called on to perform. Guess what? Every job does. But that’s not why you’re hiring us.

There reality is that there are two or three really important skills or experiences you’re looking for. If we don’t have them, there’s no way your hiring us. And if we are the best around at those, you’ll pretty much overlook everything else. That’s what goes in the job description.

You’re welcome for the free advice. Now, you looking for any writers?

 

 

Why Life is Better if You Enjoy Puzzles

I’ve never really been a puzzle person. Crossword—can’t finish it. Jigsaw—boring. Rubik’s cube—makes me feel like an idiot. Scrabble—three letters max.

sunday-s-crossword-1238083-639x426I never really understood the purpose of puzzles. Whether you finish them or not, they seem like a waste of time. Maybe you enjoy doing them, but you’re not really accomplishing anything. It’s frustration disguised as entertainment.

I’m always curious when I come across a half-finished crossword puzzle in the back of that magazine they have on airplanes. I wonder if the person was frustrated because they didn’t complete it. Can you enjoy a puzzle if you don’t finish? Can you enjoy a puzzle just for the challenge? Doesn’t life already have enough challenges? Why seek out additional ones?

It occurred to me that one way of looking at life’s challenges is as a bunch of puzzles that need to be solved. Can’t make rent this month? That’s a puzzle that needs solving. Can’t pay your dividend this quarter? That too is a puzzle that needs a solution. Unemployed over 50? Puzzle. Diagnosed with cancer? Puzzle. Don’t know what to make for dinner tonight? Puzzle.

No one escapes. Life is nothing but one long series of puzzles. Day after day. I don’t care if you’re rich or poor, young or old, gainfully employed or borderline homeless. When you wake up in the morning, you’re facing a never-ending string of puzzles. And not every puzzle can or will get solved. But they’re still puzzles. The way I see it, you may as well learn to enjoy doing them.

So, I’ve decided, if every challenge in life is nothing more than a puzzle to be solved, then damn it, I’m going to be MacGyver.

I know I won’t solve every puzzle and that’s okay. I don’t think it’s about he who solves the most puzzles wins. I think it’s about embracing this journey called life and finding a way to enjoy each puzzle that comes along. The same way those crazy people who play Sudoku do.

 

The Secret to Being an Interesting Writer

There is certainly no shortage of outlets if you’re a writer today. Writing is easy. Writing something new, interesting, compelling, time after time, is difficult. But what is it that makes writing interesting?

glowing-tube-1423139Take a look at the New York Times Bestsellers in nonfiction. What do they have in common? Here’s a hint: the information in those books did not just spontaneously appear in the writers’ minds. They had to seek it out.

The secret that nobody ever tells aspiring writers is that to be an interesting writer, you first have to be a prolific researcher.

Maybe it’s investigative journalism, maybe it’s archival research, maybe it’s a lab experiment, or maybe it’s a statistical analysis of some observed phenomenon. If you want to be able to tell a story no one else can tell, you’re going to have to do research.

My guess is that for really great reads, authors spend way more time—sometimes a lifetime—researching, than they do actually writing.

It can be frustrating to do research. As a writer your instinct is to want to write something, not read articles and interview people. If 80% of your piece is research, then 80% of your effort will produce nothing tangible. Frustrating.

I think the real secret to being an interesting writer is to remind yourself that you’re a writer even on days you don’t write anything.

 

Where the Hell is My Passion?

It’s going around. Have you caught it? I have. What is it? I call it the “What the hell should I do with the rest of my life syndrome.” It frequently infects those right around middle age. People who are not thrilled with the way they earn a living are most susceptible to catching it.

snowboarder-1-1387071Is there a cure? While the CDC hasn’t published anything official yet, there is a rumor going around that it can be cured by discovering your passion, and then filling your days with that. But passion is a tricky beast.

For a lucky few, passion seems to find them. It’s with them from birth, deep in their DNA, so they never encounter the syndrome. But for most us, passion can be illusive. We want it, we look for it, we dream about it, but we can’t find it.

How do you find it? Where do you find it? I don’t know, but I know one way that definitely doesn’t work, at least not for me: reading books. And I should know.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit I have read every one of the books on this list in an effort to discover my passion (and I’m sure I left a few out):

Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting
An Awakening from the Trances of Everyday Life
Strengths Finders
What Color is Your Parachute?
The Power of Flow
I Had it All the Time
Feeling is the Secret
Awakened Imagination
From Here to a Greater Happiness
Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life
The Passion Test
Is Your Genius at Work?
This Time I Dance
Do More Great Work
The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working
Man’s Search for Meaning
I Could Do Anything if Only I Knew What It Was
Body of Work
The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion

These are all good books, fine books, by wonderful authors. They just didn’t help me discover my passion. Why not?

Most of these books are filled with questions and self-assessments and exercises, all meant to reveal one’s true passion. Self-reflective questions that ask such things as, what did you like to do as a child, and what are you doing when you don’t notice that time has passed? All good questions, but…

Sometimes in life you don’t know the right answer, you only know the wrong ones. So, for me, no more self-discovery books. As much as I love to read, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that when it comes to self-discovery, “reading aint doing.”

So, 2016 will be My Year of Living Curiously. My approach is very simple. Any idea that pops into my head which seems like something I’d like to do or explore, I’m going to do. In other words, experiment. No more reading about it, unless that is the precondition for the doing. But here’s the trick. The experiment must be small—low cost in terms of time and money. I figure, it doesn’t do any good to spend a ton of time and money to discover you hate doing something.

And then at the end of the experiment I’m going to ask myself one simple question: now that this experiment is done, do I want to do more of it or less of it? If it’s less, I’m done. Move on to the next experiment. If it’s more, then it’s time to take the next step. Try a bigger experiment and ask the same question again. Repeat the process until I move onto a new experiment OR, I’m perpetually engrossed in some activity I will retroactively consider as my passion.

If you haven’t discovered your passion, maybe this approach will work for you. Just remember, reading aint doing. So, stop reading this post right now and start doing something. I mean it.

 

I Wish The Resume Would Die – An Open Letter

Dear Resume,

Do not take this personally, but I wish you would die. Not once in my career have you ever really helped me get a job. I know that because there is not a single position I have ever held that I was fully qualified for on the day I started. I did not have everything they were looking for and you made damn well sure they knew it. Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to find companies and hiring managers who saw beyond your limited abilities and gave me a chance in spite of you. And I feel confident in saying that all of them were glad they did.

The problem, Resume, is that you can only see in one direction: backwards. In that regard, you are like a history book. You are fine at documenting what I have done, but you stink at estimating what I am capable of.

You are exceptionally good at pointing out some software program I have never used, or some skill I have yet to demonstrate, even though I have quickly learned to use dozens of new programs and rapidly assimilated many new skills over the course of my career, and could certainly do so again if need be.

You are no longer a tool, but a hurdle. A hurdle I have to get over to help a company who can really benefit from my service. Today, the only thing you care about, Resume, is keywords. You can literally prevent me from helping some company by the simple omission of a single phrase. That is some mighty influence you wield.

I bet on the day he started Microsoft, you would have prevented Bill Gates from getting a job at IBM. You would have succinctly let IBM know, in that way that only you can, that young Mr. Gates clearly did not have what it takes to work there. Well, you know what he was good enough to do then? Start a business that would go on to dwarf IBM. See, you are lousy at measuring potential, and that is why you need to go.

I do not know what should replace you Resume, I only know it is time for you to leave. You have been around for over 500 years. You have done your job. Kudos to you. Now just sail off into retirement and let somebody find a replacement for you.

R.I.P. Resume.

Regards,

21st Century Worker

Tis the Season to…Regift?

I am okay with regifting. I may have even gotten one or two regifts this holiday season. And while I did not give a regift, I would have if I had one to give.

giftIf you open a gift and you immediately think that someone you know would like it a hell of a lot more than you, what is the harm in regifting? They say it is the thought that counts. And if your thought is of somebody else when you open a gift, that is what counts.

Suppose, however, that you receive a gift you do not want and when you open it you cannot think of anyone who would appreciate it? That is okay too. If I got a gift I felt nobody I know would enjoy (including me), I would just donate it to some worthwhile cause. Somebody spent time making that item and somebody will enjoy receiving that item. And if you cannot figure out who that is, it is not because the item is unwanted, it is because you do not know enough people. So, give it away and let the universe get it to where it is meant to be.

Donating to charity—the ultimate regift.

How to Start Your Life Over in a New City

About five weeks ago my wife and I moved from Southern California to Austin, Texas to start our new life—no jobs, no family and no friends. We are truly starting from zero. But it isn’t too bad because we are taking some very-well thought out steps to ramp up our new life here quickly.

Goodbye LA.

DSCN1818Step 1: The first thing we did was make a list of friends of friends and other acquaintances we could reach out to once we arrived. If you are moving to a new city there is a chance people you know in your old city know people in your new city. Of course a lot of that depends on what city you are moving to. In our case, Austin is a pretty cool city, so we had about a half dozen names on our friends of friends and acquaintances list.

Hello Texas.

DSCN1875Not long after we arrived we reached out to these friends of friends and acquaintances to see if we could meet them. I have to admit it is a pretty awkward thing to do. After all, these people are total strangers. And I would love to tell you that all of them dropped what they were doing to respond to our unsolicited invites, but that is not the truth. Most never responded, which is okay. I did not take it personally. They have their lives in place and we are just strangers trying to intrude. It did not hurt to try, and a couple of them did agree to meet us, including our real estate agent. She told us that she enjoys wine tasting, as do we. So, now we have agreed to plan a wine tasting trip to the local vineyards in the near future. A new friend in place? Check.

Step 2. I joined every Austin-based LinkedIn group that interested me. Since I will probably need a job someday and I am an entrepreneur at heart, those are the groups I focused on. Fortunately, LinkedIn makes it very easy to find these groups. Here is a list of some of the groups I joined.

• Austin Job Seekers
• Connected in Austin
• Door64 (for high tech professionals)
• LinkedIn Local Austin
• Network in Austin
• Relocating to Austin
• The Austin Entrepreneur Network

I fixed my settings for these groups to receive daily email updates. Many of these groups sponsor networking events, which I want to know about in a timely manner.

Step 3. I joined every Austin-based Meetup group that interested me. In some ways Meetup is better than LinkedIn because all of the Meetups are live events, and attending live events is essential if your goal is to actually meet new people.

Many Meetups occur once a month. That means if you sign up for enough Meetups you have something interesting to do every week. In addition to entrepreneurship, I chose Meetups for activities my wife and I like to do together like hiking, wine tasting, and of course, eating. Here is a list of some of the Meetups I signed up for.

• Local Austin LinkedIn Networking
• Austin Inventors and Entrepreneurship Association
• California Transplants in Round Rock (seriously)
• North Austin Hiking Meetup
• Central Texas Foodies
• Secret Dinning Super Clubs in Austin
• Eagles Nest Austin (a Philadelphia Eagle’s fan club, seriously)

Step 4. I attend at least two live events every week. So far I have met at least a dozen nice people, all of whom I have added to my LinkedIn network, and all of whom I expect to see again in the future at other events. I even met a man who introduced me to two executive recruiters in the Austin area for my area of expertise. We really hit it off as fast friends. I think that he and his wife and me and my wife will go out for dinner after the holidays. My wife even met a woman who is an executive recruiter for her area of expertise when we went to watch an Eagles’ game at a local pub. Our network seems to be coming together nicely.

Step 5. To balance out all the networking, I decided to do some volunteer work. There is no better way to fully immerse yourself in your new chosen city than to volunteer some of your time. The opportunities I am considering include mentoring troubled teens and working in hospice care. I have not actually done any volunteer work yet, but I do expect to after the holidays. The easiest way to find volunteer opportunities in any city is through VolunteerMatch, Idealist.org and Craigslist.

Step 6. Finally, the last thing my wife and I have been doing to ease the transition to our new city is to treat every day with a sense of adventure. There are not many advantages to starting your life over in a new city, but one of them is that everything is new, which means you can make it as adventurous and fun as you want. So far, we have gone on multiple hikes, waited 3½ hours in line for barbecue and shot pistols for the first time at a shooting range. It is all what you make it.

Starting life over in a new city is a challenge, but it does not have to be intimidating. There are plenty of ways to quickly meet new people. They won’t all become life-long friends, but a few will. And before you know it, our new city will no longer be our new city. It will be our home.