Archive for the 'Career' Category

What Will You Wish?

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Five years from now, what will you wish you had written?

When your future self is on its deathbed, what will it wish your current self had done with its abilities, energy, and time?

I know, I know — the deathbed thing is so overdone. But it will always be relevant because we will always be mortal. You’re going to check out someday, and it will be better (for you, for your loved ones, for the universe) if you have done more with what you have been given.

Thinking this way doesn’t need to be morbid, or even introspective. In fact, writers and other artists are often prone to be too morbid and introspective: the same sensitivity that allows the artist’s mind to capture the fine details and emotional nuances of life makes it prone to fall into navel-gazing funks . . . during which art isn’t created. So be sure to skip that part.

Instead, do a priority check on yourself, taking into account your feelings of today — because they have something valuable to tell you — as well as the reckoning that you’ll make of yourself in five years, in twenty years, or at the end of your life.

You will wish. I venture that you will wish you had painted the picture or written the novel that you feared was beyond what you could accomplish. You will wish you had taken better care of yourself — financially, physically, emotionally — from day to day so that you could get more good work done on an even keel. You will wish you had stuck with it.

Today, right now, you have the chance to play the role of fairy godmother, granting the wishes of your future self. I suggest you take up that role with gusto.

What will you wish?

Another way I might be able to help you with your job hunt.

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Nearly five years ago now, I used this very blog as a platform for sharing quite a few of my thoughts on job-hunting. I wrote up a series of three blog posts (One, Two, Three) covering these six “rules”:

  • Rule #1. It’s not over until you win.
  • Rule #2. Get help.
  • Rule #3. Fight cynicism at every turn.
  • Rule #4. Improve something.
  • Rule #5. Build up your energy.
  • Rule #6. Raise your hand.

If you’re looking for a job — or know someone who is — you might find these useful. I wrote the series (which, I now realize, is missing at least one further installment I had promised) because I had several friends who were looking for work. I wanted to share these thoughts with all of them at once. In the intervening years, I’ve had occasion to point out these posts to other friends who found themselves in need of a new gig — and now I offer them to you.

Give them a look, if you like, and feel free to leave comments on any of them. Or you could leave a comment here, telling me what advice you would add to mine, or what topics you’d like to see me cover in future posts.

While I’m at it, let me point out that all of these posts — and the one you’re reading now — are in the “Career” category, which might also be worth your perusal. Some of the posts there are about my own career, and many of them are not as advice-filled as the three big job-hunting posts. But you still might find something in them to help you along.

If you’re ready to launch into reading the three-part series, please click through to the first post, “It’s not over until you win.”

Cheers.

Looking for work?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

A while back I ran an appeal to friends and blog readers: let me know what you’re looking for from your next job, and I’ll add you to a little spreadsheet I maintain for just this purpose.

Let me make it clear: Unless you’re a dear friend, I can’t commit to actively looking for something for you (especially if I don’t know you well enough to give you a personal endorsement to a recruiter or a potential employer), but I will have your information handy for those times when information about job openings crosses my desk — which happens pretty frequently.

Here, verbatim from last year’s post on the subject, is what I need from you:

  • Your name. This seems obvious, but I know plenty of people primarily by their Twitter handle, then by their first name, and sometimes not at all by their last name. [And then there's the whole issue of women who may use their married name socially and their maiden name professionally.] So go ahead and tell me your first and last name if it’s not obvious from your e-mail address or Twitter handle.
  • Your Twitter handle, if you have one.
  • Your e-mail address. If you leave a comment here, you have to fill in your e-mail address in the comment form, so no need to type it again in the comment itself.
  • Your LinkedIn address. Mine, for example, is http://www.linkedin.com/in/tewalkerjr. (Don’t list one of the generic or ultra-long URLs that LinkedIn sometimes generates while you’re clicking around inside your account.) If you don’t have a LinkedIn account . . . you probably should, if you’re looking for a job.
  • The geography of your job search. It doesn’t matter to me where you live now; I need to know where you’re willing to live if the right job takes you there. [Also helpful: the word "only" -- as in "Austin area only" -- if you know you're not willing to move for any job offer.]
  • Your preferred field(s) of work. In just a few words, please. If and when I need the full-monty description, I can always check your LinkedIn profile for that, or just send you an e-mail.

One note that’s very much worth your attention: Last time, I got myself into trouble by not specifying that I need you to hand me all of this information, in pretty much this order. Even if your LinkedIn profile lists everything you want to do and be in your career . . . please give me a sentence or two about your preferred geography and fields of work anyway.

Last time, a couple of folks just sent me their LinkedIn URL or personal Web site URL and said “All of my information is there.” The problem with this is that I’m both (a) lazy and (b) almost always pressed for time. So when someone doesn’t hand me the information listed above on a plate, the chances that I won’t get around to digging through their LinkedIn profile to find that information increase, ahem, radically.

Short version: thrilled to help, but please make it as simple for me to help as possible.

Good?

I look forward to helping you if I can.

Why I Won’t Participate in That Thing You Were Talking About.

Monday, November 8th, 2010
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Dear Awesome Person—

First, let me be clear: you are no doubt amazing, and I am certain that the [socially conscious / fun / social-media-oriented / generally badass] [project / shindig / meeting / fundraiser] you’re planning will rock the Casbah in ways seldom contemplated, let alone achieved. Plaudits will rain down on you. Deservedly so.

Alas, I will not [participate / write a guest post / be in attendance / do that thing you asked me to do]. Not to be clichéd, but I want you to know that it’s not you—it’s me.

See, I’m a family man with a beautiful wife, wonderful children, a fun but demanding job, a lifelong goal of writing books, and a firm commitment to achieving tip-top physical condition. Something has to give—many somethings, actually—and unfortunately your project is one of them.

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to take part in your thing. Chances are very good that I would enjoy it immensely. But I have discovered that, like Jon Stewart, my creativity can only find its best expression through highly disciplined processes. Like Anthony Trollope, I have to dedicate a non-negotiable part of each day to my writing (and to my wife, my kids, my job, and my workouts). Like my friend Chris Brogan, I have to “pay myself first” in the form of ample sleep so that I can do my best work. Against my extroverted tendencies, I’m even forcing myself, like Neal Stephenson, to become a (somewhat) bad correspondent.

Why? Because I haven’t yet demonstrated the same commitment to writing books that Will Self does. (R-rated language there—though if it takes some f-bombs to get the books written, I’m all for it.)

That means, and here the Stephenson and Self references will have tipped you off, that sometimes I may even have to risk sounding rude about how I set my priorities, and how your project fits—or rather, doesn’t fit—into them.

But please believe me, it’s not meant to be rude. It’s only done because this life is finite, and when it’s over I’ll be dead a long, long time. I have to choose how to spend the hours wisely, and that means pursuing what I find truly worth doing, whether I fail or succeed.

Unfortunately, your thing—awesome though it promises to be or already is—just isn’t my thing. And experience tells me that, if I don’t focus on my thing, I’ll go crazy.

Hey, I do find moments here and there to blow off steam, socialize, and share neat (or just goofy) ideas. I do it on this blog, on Facebook, on Twitter. By all means, look me up. We’ll hang out virtually. That will be awesome, too.

But please don’t expect me to commit to something that’s just not my thing.

Yours most sincerely,

Tim

~

(Image by Jason Carlin, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)

Why I Probably Won’t Finish My Ph.D.

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
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Probably not for me . . .

[This is one of those things that you write once so you can refer people to it over and over. If you're not interested in my academic history or future, feel free to pass this one by -- especially because it's quite long.]

You’ll have guessed the punchline of this story from its title: it’s likely that I’ll never finish the Ph.D. in United States history that I started in 2004 at the University of Texas. This post explains why. (And don’t worry — it’s a story with a happy ending.) Read the rest of this entry »

Writing a New Chapter in My Career.

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Exciting news for me: this week I start my new job as a content marketer for BreakingPoint Systems here in Austin.

Just some of the reasons I’m stoked:

  • BreakingPoint is a small(ish), fast-paced company that will provide me with daily opportunities to expand my business skills.
  • The job description might have been written specifically with me in mind. Besides drawing heavily on my writing skills, the role will build on the chops I laid down as a marketer and social media pro over the past three years at Hoover’s. And even though I don’t already have specific grounding in the network security hardware business, I’ll be able to draw on the seven prior years that I spent in Hoover’s editorial department, when I covered hard-core tech like semiconductors and scientific instrumentation.
  • I get to work alongside my good friend Kyle Flaherty. [Cue Troy McClure voice from The Simpsons . . . ] You may remember Kyle from his role as my co-panelist in this year’s South by Southwest Interactive session on sports metaphors. [End Troy McClure voice.] I know I’ll learn a lot from Kyle, as well as from our boss Pam O’Neal, whom I’ve already known for a couple of years in Austin’s social media circles.
  • Kyle and I talk a lot with each other about fitness, but now we’ll get to work out together regularly. (He tells me that this was the aspect of my hire that made him most skittish, but that’s only because he knows I will CRUSH him.)

It’s bittersweet to leave Hoover’s after ten (!) years. Besides being the place where I’ve had the longest job tenure — I worked there longer than I lived in my boyhood hometown — Hoover’s is also where I learned the most about business, as both an analyst and practitioner, and where I made the most good friends in business.

I’m particularly grateful that Hoover’s gave me three starts in my career: as a full-time writer, as a marketer, and as a social media practitioner. I’m also pleased to say that I worked for ten years there without ever reporting to a bad manager, which sounds like some kind of miracle unless you’ve been inside Hoover’s walls and grasped its tradition as a workplace where people treat each other like human beings.

Oh, and in case anyone’s curious, it was purely my decision to leave Hoover’s. I was ready for something new, the opportunity at BreakingPoint opened up at a perfect time, . . . and the rest is history. I’m glad I worked on — and in some cases built — the ground floor of Hoover’s social media efforts, and I look forward to seeing how the company grows in years to come.

So, the short version: cool new job, nifty people and product, starts Wednesday, woo-hoo!

Comments?

Are you looking for work?

Friday, February 12th, 2010
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I’m putting together a little database of my friends and acquaintances who are job hunting.

If you’re a friend or acquaintance (if you read this blog, you likely qualify) who’s looking for work, feel free to leave a note in the comments, or to send me an e-mail or tweet about your job hunt.

Here’s what I need from you:

  • Your name. This seems obvious, but I know plenty of people primarily by their Twitter handle, then by their first name, and sometimes not at all by their last name. So go ahead and tell me your first and last name if it’s not obvious from your e-mail address or Twitter handle.
  • Your Twitter handle, if you have one.
  • Your e-mail address. If you leave a comment here, you have to fill in your e-mail address in the comment form, so no need to type it again in the comment itself.
  • Your LinkedIn address. Mine, for example, is http://www.linkedin.com/in/tewalkerjr. (Don’t list one of the generic or ultra-long URLs that LinkedIn sometimes generates while you’re clicking around inside your account.) If you don’t have a LinkedIn account . . . you probably should, if you’re looking for a job.
  • The geography of your job search. It doesn’t matter to me where you live now; I need to know where you’re willing to live if the right job takes you there.
  • Your preferred field(s) of work. In just a few words, please. If and when I need the full-monty description, I can always check your LinkedIn profile for that, or just send you an e-mail.

No guarantees that I’ll be able to help you out, but I do often hear about jobs through friends, colleagues, vendors, Twitter listings, et cetera.

Fair enough?

~

(Photo by Ben Tesch.)

Stop looking for trouble.

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
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See that beehive? Don’t poke it.

If you know you have a particular weakness, steer away from it.

Examples:

  • Recovering alcoholics avoid bars.
  • Recovering overeaters stock their fridges and pantries with adequate amounts of healthy food, not cake and soda.
  • Writers with an Internet addiction — e.g. John Scalzi — know when to unplug the DSL and just work.
  • If you know that a non-essential topic is a sore subject with your friend / family member / boss / colleague / whomever, just don’t bring it up.
  • If you’re prone to distraction, turn off your e-mail and your RSS feeds.

I’m sure you could supply me with more examples from your own life (and please do). My point is a simple one, but when I consider my own penchant for, say, online grazing, I think it bears repeating: each day will bring enough trouble of its own, so don’t go looking for more.

~

(Photo by Sara Schroeder, used under a CC-Noncommercial license.)

Are you keeping your standard in view?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
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In the old days, soldiers marched behind a standard bearer, who’s flag or sigil represented the nation or the military unit. The symbol was up at the top of a pole so everyone, friend or foe, could see it. It gave courage to those marching behind it — and sometimes struck fear in those facing it.

The “standard” I’m talking about is your own dream or goal or vision for what you want from life. It could be primarily about work and job titles and money. It could be primarily about happiness and fulfillment and connection with loved ones. It could be your dream to travel around the world, or to run a marathon. Don’t let me or anyone else tell you what it “should” be — it’s your standard.

If you’re anything like me, you know it’s easy to take your eye off the standard. You mean to focus better, work more diligently, write every day, exercise regularly, spend quality and quantity time with your kids, track your finances better, et cetera et cetera. But you avert your gaze.

Sometimes it’s unintentional: A work project blows up right next to you, and your whole week — when you were going to get your inbox cleared out and spend some real time thinking about Gamebreaking Project X — goes to the dogs.

Sometimes the aversion grows from our own weakness: You’re scared of how badly the first draft of your Great American Novel is going to turn out, so you never even get started on it. You’re so scared, in fact, that you can’t even admit that you’re scared. You just hide your eyes like a small child.

What’s the antidote? I think you have to plant your standard somewhere obvious so that you can’t help but look at it. In his essay “Do It Now,” Steve Pavlina talks about the simple tricks he used to enforce clarity on himself when he was starting out as an entrepreneur:

Years ago (during the mid-90s), I went around my apartment putting up signs in every room that said “$5,000 / month.” That was my monthly business income goal at the time. Because I knew exactly what I wanted, I achieved that goal within a few weeks. I continued setting specific income goals, even amidst occasional setbacks, and I found this process very effective. It wasn’t just that it helped me focus on what I wanted — perhaps even more important is that it made it easy for me to disregard those things that weren’t on the path to my goal. For example, if you set a goal to earn $10,000/month, this can help you stop doing those things that will only earn you $5000/month.

Whether you reach your goals in a few weeks, as Pavlina did in this case, or just make steady progress toward them, the lesson is clear: plant that standard.

If you don’t know what that standard looks like, then you have your first task already cut out for you. Pavlina addresses this in the very next paragraph of his article:

If you aren’t yet at the point of clarity, then make that your first goal. It’s a big waste of time to go through life being unclear about what you want. Most people wallow way too long in the state of “I don’t know what to do.” They wait for some external force to provide them with clarity, never realizing that clarity is self-created. The universe is waiting on you, not the other way around, and it’s going to keep waiting until you finally make up your mind.

You need something to fight for — to work toward — in this life, or you’ll be forever coasting toward . . . whatever happens to come along. You might achieve the clarity you need with just a few words on an index card that you put in your wallet, or by drawing a picture, or by tacking up a photo clipped from a magazine above your desk, or by writing a treatise that only you will ever read. Use whatever works, but get clear on what you’re after, and then stay clear by planting that standard, literally and figuratively, right in the big middle of your life.

What can YOU do to plant your standard where you’re sure to see it?

~

(Photo by Alan Jones, used under a Creative Commons Noncommercial license.)

What’s your Main Thing?

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Mine’s writing.

My advice, in a nutshell, is to build your career around your “Main Thing” — your most distinguished ability or your most consuming passion — that will set you apart from others in your field.

For me, it’s writing. No matter what title my business cards carry in the future, my work will always center around writing, because that’s what I’m best at, and what I can’t help doing even if I try.

For you, it could be . . . well, I don’t want to jump the gun, so please tell me: What’s the “Main Thing” of your work?