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Improve name recall with this exercise

Posted by jeggent on 14th April 2015

By me (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsI was never very good with names.  I tried numerous tricks to improve this skill, but I didn’t seem to get any better.  Saying someone’s name multiple times within the first couple of minutes of meeting them always seemed really weird anyways.  This was an area that I really wanted to improve, so I continued to work on it.

Recently, I accidentally came up with a useful exercise to help me better remember names.  While I am walking to a meeting or just out for exercise, I started looking at people and thinking about who they most look like.  The people you see won’t necessarily look a lot like the people you know, but try to think of who they most look like.  This will cause you to picture the other person and give you time to recall their name.  This regular practice of associating names with faces really seems to be helping.   Similarly, just picturing the people you know will be present at the meeting you are headed to will help you to be prepared to greet them by name.

Best of luck!
John @ BGSU

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More of my Best Advice: For Next lists

Posted by jeggent on 12th December 2014

ForNextIf you missed it, I posted my best advice (recording your accomplishments earlier.  As the year winds down and end of year reports need to be written, I stand by this being great advice!

My next bit of advice is to create a series of “For Next” lists.  I use Microsoft’s OneNote since I have it on my desktop, tablet, and on the web.  You should use whatever system you typically have quick access to.  Even if it is paper and pen.

Then start a lists for the people and groups that you regularly communicate with.  For example, I have a “For Next” lists for my boss and all of the committees that I am on.  Then whenever you think of something that you need to bring up the next time you meet with that person or group, you’ll have it handy.  Then after talking about those items I date them and start another list.  Here is what a “For Next” list might like:

Next
End of year evals
New flatbed scanner quote
Personal time on Tuesday

12/1/14
Website presentation ideas
Conference in January

A “For Next” list is useful as a reminder to to get answers or give updates and to keep a running list of when things were discussed.  Keeping for next lists is an easy way to make all of your meetings more productive.

Cheers!
John

Posted in Career, Productivity | No Comments »

New Job First Year Blues

Posted by jeggent on 9th December 2014

A few weeks ago I posted on Linkedin about why some people have a hard time feeling valuable/valued at a new job.

Check it out if that sounds interesting:

New Job First Year Blues

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Getting Hired Without Professional Experience

Posted by jeggent on 12th September 2014

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How do you get hired when your relevant experience isn’t from a paid job?

When I was earlier in my career, the question was “how do you get experience in an area when you can’t get a job in the field without experience?”  There have been many suggestions offered to this problem, and programmers especially have a number of options available such as side work, volunteer your services to a non-profit, contribute to an open source project, and hobby programming.

But how do you list these things on a resume so that they will be considered by the search committee?

Pretty much all resumes have a section called something like “Experience” or “Professional Experience”, on my resume the label is “Relevant Work History”.  If you have significant experience that isn’t from a paid job, I would just label that section as “Experience” and include what you’ve worked on just like you would a paid position.  Include all of the relevant tools, skills, experience, tasks, etc just as you would with any job.  Here is a fictional example of having programmed a game as a hobby:

Falling Apples Counting Game
Java Developer |  October 2012 – June 2014

  • Defined requirements for the project
  • Programmed the Falling Apples Counting Game in Java language using the Eclipse IDE
  • Completed thorough user testing and fixed identified flaws
  • Responded to user questions on wiki, blog, and Twitter

I would format the section exactly the same as other professional experience and include the same details, especially those relevant to the job posting.  Search committees often have rating sheets to indicate if you meet the requirements of the job and how good of a match your experience is.  Give them every opportunity to consider your relevant (if not professional) experience in their assessment.

Beyond the Resume

You will probably want to include a brief explanation of this non-professional experience in the cover letter.  The cover letter is a good place to talk about why you are qualified for the job you are applying for.  It is also the place to answer questions someone looking at your resume might have.  Going back to the Falling Apples example; they may wonder why that time frame overlaps with a another in the Experience section.  You can mention that you worked on that project “independently” or something like that.  Don’t include any language to minimize the experience such as “in my spare time” or “as a hobby”.  If it is a project that you put a lot of work into and are proud of, don’t short sell it.

Project Overview

To go one step further, I also think it makes sense to include a single page project overview.  Remember, you are competing for this job with other candidates that may have the professional experience that you lack.  You need to use plain language to sell yourself to the nontechnical people while still including enough technical details so that the geeks know you are for real.  Some things to include in this overview would be an abstract (description of the project), technical details (language, database, server, etc), download counts (if applicable), testimonials, and some images from the end result.  Additionally, if you have presented at a conference or user group or anything similar, include those details also.  Try to make this project overview document visually appealing.  Search committees will read as little as possible, especially when there are lots of applicants.  So make this look interesting so it gets read.  Finally, if there is a significant difference in your professional experience and what is required for the position, consider including letters of reference up front even if they are not required yet.

Lastly

I have just a couple of parting points to leave you with.

  • Who you are online matters.  I’m sorry, it just does.  People will look you up.  Keep it clean and clean it up.
  • Use a land line phone for phone interviews.  Don’t let poor reception, a weak signal, or solar flares screw up your chance for an in person interview.
  • Have someone proofread everything before you send it in.  It is really hard to accurately proofread your own writing.  I know it is hard to open yourself up to others like this, but this is important, this is your career we are talking about.
  • Use a professional looking e-mail address in your contact information.  I_luv_my_8_cats@catsarepeopletoo.com just doesn’t look good on a resume.
  • Be honest.  You will not be happy in a job you are not qualified for but got because you lied on a resume or in an interview.
  • Don’t be shy about bragging.  The search committee needs to know what is great about you.  I know that some people don’t feel totally comfortable with this part.  Just know that they are interested in hearing about you and what you’ve done.  It’s not bragging if you can back it up.  🙂

Good luck out there!

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