Monday, June 28, 2010

"He Should Of Had It"

I am really enjoying this year's World Cup. When possible I make every effort to watch the game. There's just something so exciting about guys kicking a ball around. Though, one of the things that makes it extra fun are the commentators.

First, I love their accent. There just something about a British guy calling the game that makes it more enjoyable. Also, when Jessi first started watching with me she had trouble understanding what they were saying. It reminded me fondly of my learning curve.

Then there's learning the new words like "pitch" and "nil". It's just so... proper.

My most favorite part though are the commentator's attitude towards the game. They are constantly saying things like, "Oh, he should of had that one." Or, "Oh, that's a mistake. He shouldn't have done that". These commentators make it sound like there should be a goal every five minutes. Like every missed attempt was the player some how messing up on something which should be done easily.

Seriously?!

These guys are running as fast as they can and trying to make a round bouncy ball go where they want it - with others trying to stop them no less! Think about it. That's hard! There's a reason most games are 1-0. If you just think about the goal-to-shot ratio, the commentators should be more surprised when a goal is actually scored.

Remember it's all in that British accent too, which makes it even funnier.

Of course, when a goal is scored, you can hear the commentators saying, "The goalie should of had that one." What?!  It's like they get paid to complain about how non-perfect the players are. It's just unbelievable, in an entertaining sort of way. I'm pretty sure if they didn't have a British accent it would be annoying.

It's especially great when they attack the refs. When the ref calls offsides, and they look at the instant replay - with the transparent line to make it obvious - they'll say stuff like, "He's clearly even. That's a bad call. The ref should have done better." Come on. That ref was running as fast as he could to keep up with the play and we had to slow the replay way down to see the call. It's really not that "clear".

"He should of had that." Ha. How classic. Now whenever I watch and I hear a line similar to it, I like to mimic them with my horrible British accent. In some weird way though, it does make the game more entertaining when the commentators expect every attempt to be perfect. They're so unyielding too. You'd think they'd catch on, but nope. The very next play their expectations are set for perfection once again.

On a related note, I'm going to be in Germany during the World Cup final. It should fun to watch it in a country where soccer is the dominate sport.

Monday, June 21, 2010

ESPN ScoreCenter

If you're into sports, this app is for you. ESPN's ScoreCenter does exactly what you'd think it does: it gives score updates from a variety of sports. I have four sports I follow: (NFL & NCAA), baseball, and hockey. Though ESPN does a good job of including many, many more sports (here's a full list).

What's super cool about this app is that it lets you passively follow your favorite teams. Once you pick a sport to follow, you can pick your specific teams to follow. Those teams will be highlighted within the app for you. You can also set various push alerts for each team.

The alerts are the amazing part of this app for me. There are alerts for the start of the game, and various score updates. For the most part I just get alerts on the final score (see the Alert Details screen shot). The benefit of this is that it lets me keep tabs on my teams without having to continue to check in to ESPN all the time.

For all of the teams I follow, I have the final alert set. It tells me the score along with a couple highlights from the game. Sometimes, like during the NFL post season, I add alerts for each scoring play. That is really exciting!

As the myTeams screen shot shows, you can tap on each game and get all the details. I typically only care about the score, but it is nice to have all this data easily accessible.

This app would be amazing if it did what MLB's iPad did: which is show live games right on the device. I realize this is league dependent, but this would be huge! Image live streamed World Cup Soccer games.

As I said, this app is excellent. It's great being able to follow my teams and root for them throughout the day. I recommend checking it out.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Fine Art Of The Big Talk

After reading The Fine Art Of Small Talk, I decided to try Debra Fine's follow-up book The Fine Art Of The Big Talk. Big talk is significant, meaningful talk. Sometimes it's a difficult conversation, often it's an in-depth exploration of some subject. Big talk also open opportunities to ask for something, to sell something, to motivate someone, or to teach someone. Big talk is important.

The idea behind this book is to help "increase your language awareness." This, in turn, helps you hone your conversation skills to become more influential, better at managing conflict, and making more satisfying connections.

Like her first book, this one is full of practical advice. Here's one of my favorites: When leading a meeting set an agenda. For each item, clearly state what the objective of the topic is and, if possible, what the decision being made is. This will help to focus meetings and run more smoothly. I've already starting doing this in my meetings and I've noticed a difference. I also think this frame of thinking is appropriate for creating written reports. What's the object of each slide or paragraph? What decision is it helping drive? I've found being explicit really helps. In my meeting invites I write out: "Topic: blah. Objective: blah. Decision: blah?"

There are all sorts of goodies like that throughout the book. I'm now in the process of reviewing each chapter. When I'm done, I hope to have a cheat sheet that I can refer to when I know a big talk is coming up.

The best way to read this book is AFTER you've read the Small Talk book. I found it helpful because it got the ball rolling on conversations. If you only had time for one book, I would actually recommend the Small Talk book. However, if you're looking to improve your overall conversation skills, then I recommend checking this out after the Small Talk book. Both books are short enough that, even though there isn't an audiobook version, they're easy to get through.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Thoughts On Finding A Job

I often get asked about how to find a job. As such, I've done research, learned from personal experience and others. From that, here's the advice I give to someone looking for a job.

What I'm about to describe is not easy. Actually, it takes a ton of work. However, you're looking for a job you're going to have for at least 5 years (maybe even 40). Therefore, take the time now and make a push to really find a job you want. Believe me, you don't want to fall into a job or accept the first offer because it's easy. Then you might spend the next next 5 to 40 years only looking forward to the weekend.

The other benefit of following this process is that it reduces your competition. When you apply to a job online, you are competing against, literally, thousands of other people. Your chances of finding a job this way is very small. Can you image what the hiring manager must feel like? You do not want to be in this group. Instead, by following this process you stand a chance of finding a job that nobody or only a couple other people are competing for.



Create A Master Resume
I have one master resume that is a couple pages long. It has all my work experience, all my projects, and all my leadership roles since the beginning of high school. Then, when I apply to a job, I trim my master resume down to a single page. This helps make sure it's as targeted as possible and doesn't require me to remember past activities.

Create A Master Cover Letter
When I started writing cover letters I started pooling them together into a master file. Now, the next time I need to write something, I can pick and pull to also make sure it's as targeted as possible. 

Write Out Your Dream Job
Literally create a job description. Describe your responsibilities and what your daily activities would be. This will give you a focus and a dream. Furthermore, when someone asks you what you want to do, you now have an answer. Not sure what you want to do? I like to ask this question: If you were independently wealthy (ie. You had all the money you wanted, but didn't need to work for it), what you do during the day? That answer will start pointing you in possible directions for your life. Still don't know what you want to do? The next few steps will also help.

Information Interviews (Talk To People)
Start talking to people. Anyone and everyone. Start with people you know and when you finish your conversation, ask if there's someone else they think you should talk to. Furthermore, make sure to ask if you can contact them again. Once again, come up with a master list of questions. Then, pick and choose the ones you want to ask for each person. I had about 60 questions to choose from. Here are a couple general examples:
  • How did you begin working for [this company]?
  • What is your educational background?
  • What do you like best about working here?
  • What is the trend for future growth for [this company]?
  • What software do you use to do your job?

If you can research the company ahead of time, it'll help you come up with better questions. At a minimum, here's what you should research on a company before you talk to someone:
  • When were they founded?
  • What is their principle line of business?
  • Where do they have locations?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • What competitor or economic technology challenges do they face?
  • What's been written about them in any media outlet over the last few years?

If you're unemployed and not doing anything else, you should aim to talk to at least one person a day. That can happen over the phone or in person over food (you should always offer to pay). This is huge! I guarantee you that if you do enough informational interviews, more than one will turn into an actual interview. Even if it doesn't make sure to follow up and thank them for meeting with you. If you find an article of interest, pass it along.

Learn About Communicating
I understand that it isn't always easy to talk to people. Therefore, spend the time to learn those skills. Notice, I put this step after you start talking to people. That's because you should start talking to people as soon as possible. The first book you should read is The Fine Art Of Small Talk by Debra Fine. It will teach you how to strike up conversations and gain the confidence to talk to people. I have a full review here. It's a fast read and well worth it. The other book I recommend reading, if you have time, is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It will teach you how to reach out to others and thinking about networking. I also have a full review here.

Mock Interviews
Practice. Practice. Practice. When you're information interview turns into an actual interview, you want to be ready. There are tons of sites dedicated to providing you with sample questions. I had another huge list of descriptive ("Tell me about yourself."), behavioral ("Tell me about a time when...") and analytical ("How many dimples are on a golf ball?") questions. I wrote out answers to each of them and practiced saying the answer out loud. I also asked other people to interview me and got their feedback. It was a huge confidence builder when I was in a real interview and I recognized the question before the interviewer was done asking it.

Job Shadow
Another variation of information interviews is a job shadow. I did this a couple times and it was amazing. It's an opportunity to meet a bunch of people and really learn about a company. Maybe you can only shadow for an hour, but maybe you'll get the whole day. Ask to set up meetings with other people before you visit. When you're there, use your new "small talk" skills to meet people and ask if you can contact them later. Then actually follow up to do an official informational interview. If it's appropriate, ask to job shadow them. You can quickly see how this could spiral into meeting a bunch of people. Imagine how a manager's going to feel about you if you've shown up to their offices 5 times in the last 6 months to learn more about their company.

Ask About A Job
OK. You've talked to people and found a job you want to apply for. Here's my suggestion: Do not apply to it right away. Instead, come up with 5 or more questions about the position. Then, contact the hiring manager and let him/her know you're interested in apply, but you have a few questions about it. Meet with them and ask your questions.

Good questions are ones that focus on the job and show that you know what you're talking about. It's hard to give generalized questions, so here's a situation. You're asking about a forecasting job:
  • What databases will I have access to and what tools are used?
  • How often are the forecast cycles and what planning processes will it feed?
  • Will I be expected to align with other planning processes, or will I be provided unconstrained forecasts?
  • What would you like to know more about, but wish you had the data to answer it?

You see how the questions are very specific and business focused? The last one even asks about current issues they're having. If you really feel like you know the subject, trying offering advice and brainstorming with them. Once they've answer your questions, let them know you're interested in the job and would like to apply for it. Then ask them the best way to do it. I have been on the phone when this conversation turned into an actual job interview.

Internships
If you don't know what you want to do with your life, get an internship. Get as many as you need to get in order to find out what you want to do. In addition to informational interviews and job shadowing you'll really get a good idea of what you'd like to do. Obviously, the earlier you start this process the better. I wish I had started this freshman year in college instead of getting serious about it my final year in grad school.

Volunteer
This is one of my favorite pieces of advice. If you're looking for a job, you should volunteer somewhere. I recommend trying to get as close to your desired job as possible, but do anything. Here are some benefits of doing volunteer work:
  • You get out of the house and give back to the community. That will help give you a positive outlook.
  • You're gaining work experience that can be added to your master resume and talked about during your interview.
  • You will meet people who also believe in giving back. Furthermore, volunteer coordinators tend to know a LOT of people. If you really contribute to the organization, this could open up many doors. 

I would volunteer 2-3 days a week. Long enough to really get involved, but leave time for your job search. If you're in school, you might only be able to give a couple hours a week - do it. My wife volunteered at an elementary school near our college a couple hours during the week and it helped her land her teaching job.

Join A Local Professional Organization
Along the lines of volunteering is joining a local professional group. Don't just join though, get involved. Show up and help. This will help you meeting people are who doing jobs similar to what you want. This could prove to be super helpful. I personally favor the volunteer route, but this could be excellent.

Find A Partner
Like working out or losing weight, it seems to go better when you have an accountability partner. Find someone who will ask you how many people you've talked to. Someone who will help you practice answering interview questions. Someone who will stand there while you dial the phone or write an email asking to meet for lunch with a new contact. By creating a plan with this person, you will increase your chances of success. If you're going for your dream job, isn't it worth the extra effort?

Personal/Professional Website
In this web-enabled world, I think having a personal website is a bonus. I mean, Facebook and LinkedIn are great, but I think there's value in having your own branded space. I know before I meet with someone I do a search on their name. Why not impress them with something you've made? Lifehacker did a roundup of reader's top five best personal landing pages. I think flavors.me looks sweet and it easy to set up. I also made business cards with my contact information and a link to my website. I designed them in Word, had Kinkos print them, and I cut them myself. They look great and cost less than $10 for a few dozen (and I had them done in 1 day). If you're curious, here's what my site looks like: JamesFurlo.com

I'd like to loop back to LinkedIn one more time. If you're going to do anything on it, the best use of your time is to write recommendations for people you know. Do not ask for anything in return. Simply give to others - especially those who give you an informational interview. By giving freely you'll find that people are more willing to help you in the future.

Professional Blog (Added Aug 2011)
Some people think that the blog is the new resume, and I'm inclined to agree. What's cool about a blog is that it lets employers know that this position/industry is meaningful to you. You get to showcase projects you work on, and talk about news in the industry. This is especially great if you don't have a ton of work experience. Here's what you do to get started: Go to blogger.com or wordpress.com and set up a site. Spend the $10 to get a custom url. Then start posting 2-3 articles a week. One of my favorite techniques to get started is this: find another article, write a quick intro to it, post a snippet, then make a final comment with a link to the full article. Done. MacDailyNews.com and LifeHacker.com are experts at this type of writing. Then, as you work on projects or have thoughts about the industry/position, post those too. Once you have 20 posts, you can start sharing your blog with others.

Final Thoughts
That was a lot. I told you it wasn't easy, but it is worth it. Whatever you do, DO NOT apply blindly online. If you don't have someone to call to check on the progress of your application, don't apply. Therefore, get on the phone and start talking to people. Get to know them and let them experience how great of a person you are. That is the true value of doing informational interviews. Everything else revolves around doing those interviews.

Finally, my intention is to update this as I, and others, learn more. So please provide your feedback so I can make this better and more relevant.