Archive for September, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, somewhat prophetically as it turned out, at least half of us in a commuter relationship will at some point in time have to leave their place of employment and probably the town in which you live.

For many people leaving a job is not that big of a deal. They didn’t really care that much about the job or their co-workers. To them they are just people where they work.

For me one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do since turning in my two week notice at work is to watch my team move on without me.

From the moment I knew I was going to resign I dreaded the time that I’d have to say those words aloud: first to my manager and then to my direct reports and the people beneath them.

Logically I know that it is no longer my place to be involved in strategic planning meetings for the company and that it is normal that I am removed off of distribution lists and department pow-wows. But in the spirit of full disclosure I will say that at times it has been a painful process for me.

The team that we have now is a close knit group and the economic downturn hasn’t made things easy for us in the work place. But we stuck together because we’re like family.

If we’ve stuck together through thick and thin then why leave?

I’ve asked myself this question repeatedly. One of the biggest drivers was the opportunity that was presented to me, while risky, offered me a chance to grow within the industry that I love via the use of technology. I will actually run my own department. In my career I’ve always been Robin to someone else’s Batman.

Heck, I’ve never even been a First Wife.

Ironically, at first there is no department: just me. I pointed this out glumly to my husband, “I don’t even have a Robin in this new position.”

“Batman started out alone, Lara.” He said. “Robin came later.”

As dorky as that sounds, it made me feel better.

Leaving people you care about is never easy. But with technology what it is today, you can stay in touch. I hope the people who’ve come to mean so much to me at my current job will stay in touch. I hope that we aren’t just work friends.

As those of us in a long distance relationship know only too well, in any relationship where you don’t see the person every day, it takes effort to keep those relationships alive. I’ll do my best to maintain contact with the wonderful people I’ve worked with for almost eight years.

And here is to meeting new people, and learning new things…..and hoping that I get my own “Robin” sooner, rather than later.

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(More) Interviewing Dos and Don’ts and how I did EXACTLY what I told everyone not to do.

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

I’m 100% certain you read my previous blog on “Interviewing Don’ts” (and if you didn’t, then scurry back in blog-time and read it.

We’re still interviewing at work. And I believe I can now say I have heard it all.

Remember in the last post I was ROFLMAO about the girl who was going to text her mommy to make her feel better about herself? (Yes, she did invoke her mom during an interview and thankfully I missed that line during the actual interview because there is no way I could have kept a straight face. Seriously. Go read my blog. It was funny.)

Enter candidate #2: This woman was no where near as young as Text-Mom girl. Oh no. This one was absolutely old enough to know better. Here goes:

First of all, if I could make a comment about appearance in interviews. All I really ask for is that people are neat, they don’t smell – good or bad, and that their clothes are clean.

I get that most women are not running around in Jimmy Choo shoes or Hermes scarves, particularly for the entry level positions we’re hiring. Generally I’m not too picky about clothing provided it fits, i.e. not so sloppy they look like they walked in wearing their Saturday morning sweats nor so tight that I’m wondering if the circulation is being cut off in their arms, across their chest etc.

And while I’m on the topic can we discuss button up blouses that are straining so tight I’m concerned that if one of those buttons flies off I’m going to have an eye put out? Because really: I don’t need a peek at your chest: it only makes me sad about my lack thereof.

Having said that, I’d also caution someone against wearing too much jewelry. Before you go ballistic on me and we start debating what is “too much” allow me to say, I wore my thumb ring to my interview (mostly because I forgot to take it off). Hey: I can take a little walk on the wild side too!

But back to my latest interview: this candidate had rings on every finger. In fact, she had two rings on one of her pinkies. She had enough bangle bracelets to open up a Zale’s jewelry store and she had on a gold necklace that spelled her name out in wire….just in case I couldn’t read her resume.

Ah yes: her resume.

On her resume there was a sizeable gap in time. Like any good interviewer I questioned her about it.

“I worked some temp jobs,” she said.

“Such as?” I prompted.

“I worked two months at a gas station.”

“Good,” I said. “And the other 8 months?” I queried.

“Well – I worked for XYZ Company from home. Well, I mean….my mom took the typing assessment for me on-line because I don’t type very fast but I did all of the actual work.”

I’m sorry. Did she just say that she committed Employment Fraud? And that her Mom committed the fraud for her??

We always (with reason) have two people in an interview room with a candidate. With this little admission of typing fraud my head jerked up and I saw a similar expression of shock on my co-interviewer’s face.

Needless to say, we weren’t in that interview too much longer.

Ironically, we too have candidates take an assessment which includes a typing test. As my fellow interviewer handed her the slip of paper listing the URL to go to in order to take the test it took all of my strength of will to not say, “Here, hon. Tell your mom to knock herself out.”

After the candidate was gone the two of us laughed to the point of tears. “On the plus side,” my co-worker pointed out, “You can assume she’d be honest.”

We chuckled as we imagined what our own respective mothers might say to us if we asked them to take an assessment for us. Most responses involved getting cuffed upside the head by our mom and being told, “Get your own #$%!* job!”

What was the deal with these women bringing up their mothers in interviews? They undercut their own authority even more so than women who are offered jobs who say, “I’ll have to discuss it with my husband.” Really? Do you need a note from your mommy (or husband) too?

Fast forward to my interview, the one where I was the interviewee for a change.

I went through six different people beginning with a recruiter on a phone screen. Then a phone interview with someone from the company and then four in person interviews: three of which required me to fly to California for a day. The fourth one occurred here in my city.

I entered this process thinking, “how hard can it be?” I’ve been interviewing people for years. Surely I know how to answer interview questions. Perhaps more importantly I know how to NOT answer some questions. I also do a fair bit of public speaking and generally can think and speak well on my feet. Therefore I decided I had this thing nailed. It was in the bag.

Ah the power of my own arrogance.

The first two phone screens went quite well. Flush with my success I boarded a plane and was only a tad bit nervous as I flew across the country to have my first face to face meeting.

At 9am, I met with the recruiter I had been speaking with on the phone. Imagine my shock and embarrassment when I had trouble answering basic questions about why this job interested me. My answers were wooden. I repeated myself. Frankly: I sucked.

After we finished meeting I had a few minutes to run to the loo and grab a diet Coke.

In the washroom I stared at the woman in the mirror and wondered what happened? How had I gone so tongue-tied? What about all of my career accomplishments and accolades? I dabbed at sweat on my brow and quickly scanned my own resume to remind myself of all I’d done. I even reread the letters of recommendation I’d brought along in case they wanted them. (They didn’t but I ended up feeling better!)

“Get it together, girl!” I growled at my reflection.

Luckily I did manage to get it together when I met with the Managing Director and Senior Vice President. Since subsequently I was offered a job I’d go so far as to say I acquitted myself rather well.

I’m sure that when the Director and SVP sat down with the recruiter and exchanged notes about the interviews the recruiter probably wondered if they’d all interviewed the same woman.

Then it was down to the last interview, back in my city. It was at this point that I once again became too cocky. I figured I must have passed the tests in California or I wouldn’t be sitting across the desk at the executive office now.

It was as I discussed how my tenure in my current position (retail dealing in cosmetics, jewelry and women’s apparel) would translate nicely into a different business sector (men’s products: tools, etc.) that I committed the cardinal sin: I said, “When I was discussing this position with my mother – ”

I broke off in horror. Had a truly just brought my mother to my interview?

I sure did. I was aghast.

Hastily I finished the sentence. Inwardly I was cringing but I just smiled and carried on with the interview. What else could I do?

I feel a bit of a hypocrite to offering advice words of advice at this point, but here goes:

1. Practice, practice, practice. Have a friend “interview” you.
2. Use your favorite search site and research interview questions. Double points for “difficult interview questions.”
3. Make sure your clothes are appropriate for the interview. Dress appropriately for the level of the position and the industry it is in. Clean, neat and well-fitted is imperative.
4. Beware of what you mock….for one day you too could become someone worthy of mocking.

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Cha-Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

(Thanks to David Bowie for today’s title)

I’ve been rather quiet on this blog for a few weeks. And with good reason: I’ve decided to leave the company that I’ve worked for since 2002.

It was not an easy decision. The people there have been my extended family. I’m not indigenous to the state I now live in and I have no people here….at least none that are related to me by blood (and even less after Mr. J moved out of state too).

Thus leaving the place that has nurtured me, expanded my career horizons and frankly, during some of the darker episodes of my life, sustained me has taken an extraordinary amount of courage.

Of course, harder to explain to people is why I’m taking a job that doesn’t put me geographically closer to Mr. J.

“Why would you do that?” people have asked, dismay and confusion written all over them.

The most succinct answer is this position will allow me to work remotely, which will allow me to spend more time with Mr. J.

In my defense, I didn’t go looking for this job. It came looking for me. And I have to say: there is nothing quite as sweet as being courted by a recruiter and then the top management from a company. I heartily recommend it.

When I was in college I remember being friendly with the Economic Chairs’ Secretary. To my 21-year-old self she seemed ancient (which basically means she was about 35).

I remember her lamenting the fact that she hadn’t gotten her degree when she was younger. Instead she had married right out of high school, had two babies and then divorced. She was going back to college now but she cautioned me to finish my BBA.

The real take away for me was how she regretted so many missed opportunities: or the road not traveled.

I vowed that when I was “ancient” I wouldn’t look back and say, “I wish I’d done this. And I wish I’d done that.” I decided I would carefully weigh all options presented to me and make sure that I wouldn’t someday regret the decisions I did make.

Now that I’m “ancient” plus a few years, I can say that whenever an opportunity has arisen, and not necessarily just work related, I’ve asked myself, “How will I feel if I don’t do XYZ? Will I regret it later? Will I consider it a missed opportunity?”

I get calls from recruiters pretty regularly. All of them, until now, haven’t been situations that would work for me.

This one did.

Or I sure hope it does. At least I won’t later look back and say, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d taken that job with ABC Corporation?”

I am excited and yet sad as another chapter in my life closes and a new one begins.

On what I promise will be a funnier note (at least some of it), the things that I have learned on this journey of changing jobs have been eye opening.

Several topics I’ll be exploring in the near future:
1. Why leaving on good terms is imperative
2. Disengaging from a team
3. (More) Interview Dos and Don’ts and how I did EXACTLY what I told everyone not to do. (Thankfully I had an opportunity for a do over.)
4. Irony and my beater car
5. How a winning lottery ticket lost me my debit card

Do you have any words of advice as I travel into my position?

Come on: someone tell me some war stories!

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Welcome: Guest Blogger Amy

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Today you’ll hear from someone other than me (which might be a refreshing change).

Amy met someone on-line back before it was cool to do so.

Here in her own words is Amy! Take it away!

I met my husband, Tommie, online. This was back when AOL charged you by the hour. As you can imagine, we had some very big online bills!

I was 21 and relatively new to the whole “on-line” thing. But once I had signed up with my shiny new credit card I was hooked. I LOVED it! Growing up I had always been big on writing letters. To me this was just another way to meet people!

I spent a lot of time in the chat rooms back then. I made friends and dated a few people. My real life friends and family that weren’t online worried constantly about me meeting my online friends face-to-face for the first time. For the most part, I made sure I met them with another friend around or at least always in a public place.

Tommie and I actually met via an ad I placed on one of the AOL boards looking for “friends”, not a “relationship”.

On my AOL ad I listed my likes, my age, etc. Tommie answered me back and we connected right away. So many guys at that time would message you and want to “cyber” (have the internet equivalent of phone sex for the uninitiated, like Lara.). How unattractive to get messaged and that be the first thing you see??

Thankfully Tommie wasn’t like that. The way he wrote was so creative and made me laugh. :)

One of the things I had put in my ad was that I liked “anime”, and he thought that was cool and what prompted him to message me. Seems like all the kids are into “anime” these days (Japanese Anime), but back then, it was more unusual.

We wrote back and forth for the longest time and would talk via I.M. (Instant Message) when we’d catch each other online.

At the time Tommie and I met online my Great Grandmother, the matriarch of our large family had passed away. It was a hard time for me. Tommie was sympathetic and comforting to me during that loss.

However, I had met someone locally and I dated him for a while. I didn’t mention this to Tommie. (More on this later.)

Over time my friendship with Tommie progressed from us emailing and I.M’ing to mailing little packages to each other of songs that we liked, creating cassette tapes for each other and sending letters and calling each other.

We worked different shifts and I would always rush home for lunch to talk to him before he laid down for bed. He would always wait for me to get online. We had our set times to connect and I SO looked forward to them! Tommie would even fax me little notes at work. We just utilized every form of communication at our disposal.

Somewhere at about the year mark of our “friendship” Tommie asked if he could come and visit me.
I said “Sure!”

Tommie purchased his plane ticket (After the ticket was already purchased I found out that Tommie had never flown before. He loathed the idea of flying so this was a pretty big deal for him.).

About that time I started to feel guilty for not telling him I had been dating someone…..so I worked up the courage and told him.

It really threw him for a loop: here he was coming to visit this girl, but she was already seeing someone.

Later he told me that he almost backed out and didn’t come but then decided, “What the heck?” After all, he already had the ticket.

Then Tommie told me that he too had a secret: He had a daughter. She’d been born when he was 17 and adopted by her grandparents with whom she lived.

I was a little taken aback but I’ve always loved children so it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

When the big day finally arrived, I went to the airport to pick Tommie up. I was so excited; I had butterflies in my stomach. I was hoping I’d recognize him. I just had one picture to go off. People started disembarking. I looked and looked. No Tommie.

Once the last person got off my heart sank. Where was he?? Did he back out last minute? Lie to me that he was coming? Did I not recognize him? But no one was standing around like they were looking for someone.

This was before cell phones were so prevalent. I called home and listened to my messages from my answering machine. There was a message from Tommie that he had missed his connecting flight, but they had given him a seat on the next flight out.

He left me the flight # and time and asked if I could get his luggage. He described to me what it looked like. I went over to baggage claim and picked up his suitcase and brought it back to the house. I waited anxiously until time to go back to the airport. I had been all worked up the first time just to have it put on hold.

When I went to the airport for the second time, it was the same all over again: butterflies in my stomach, looking anxiously at everyone as they disembarked hoping to recognize him. People started filing out and No Tommie. ‘Not again,’ I thought. But still, no Tommie!

Finally, one of the last people off, there he was! A big smile lit up his face when he saw me. And I had a big hug waiting for him. It was so nice and exciting to finally meet him face to face. :)

He stayed a week and when I took him to the airport for his flight home, Tommie turned to me and dropped a bombshell. He said, “I think I’m going to move here.”

I almost passed out. It was totally out of the blue for me! Yes, we had a great time I liked him, but Whoa!

Tommie said, “Well, I just see a lot of ‘help wanted’ signs up here and there’s not a lot of opportunity down in Alabama…..”

I really didn’t know what to say but must have said something encouraging as I left him at the airport terminal, headed to a new part time job that I was starting that evening.

Shortly after I got to my new job I received a call from Tommie. He said his flight had been cancelled and he couldn’t get another flight for another couple of days.

Unsure what to do since I couldn’t leave on my very first night, I told him to just get a taxi to my job and take my car home, and he could come pick me up when I got off work.

Months later he told me that yes, his flight had been cancelled, but he could’ve gotten on the next flight. Instead he asked them to schedule him a few days later – sly!

Those two extra days did it for me! I was ready for him to move.

However there was still one other skeleton in the closet. It turned out that Tommie too had been seeing someone else and had failed to mention it to me! Even though he’d been upset with me for dating someone in real life while he was purchasing plane tickets, he’d been doing the exact same thing!

But after the 10 days we spent together he went home and broke it off with her and told his family that he was moving to be with me.

After six months of scrimping and saving money, Tommie moved to Kansas City. We were fortunate that I was able to put in a good word and get him a job where I was working.

The rest is, as they say, history: We moved in together and were married within a year.

It has been 13 years since we met online via AOL. In May we celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. And what wonderful years they’ve been!

Occasionally we still get a strange look and a “Really?!?!?” when people ask how we met, but now it is far more acceptable to have met online than it was when I met my Tommie!

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Posted in Guest Bloggers |

Hold the Presses

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Thanks to everyone who has emailed me to find out if I’m still breathing!

Sorry for the delay in updating. Real Life has me by the throat at the moment. The good news is it is giving me lots of fodder for this blog. I’ll be back on-line with our guest blogger, Amy in the next few days. She is going to tell her wonderful LDR story about how she and her husband met on-line.

Thanks for your support!

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Posted in Uncategorized |

You Do What??

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I cook meals for Mr. J to take home with him. People look askance at me for this practice: like they think I’ve lost my mind. “Why would you do that?” I’ve been asked repeatedly.

Let’s be very clear on this point: I’m no Julia Childs. I’m cooking plain food that can travel well. Meat loaf, chili, beef stew, garlic chicken breasts. And I guess I should clarify: I’m cooking the entrée. He is responsible for side dishes and by side dishes I mean vegetables.

As we’ve already discussed in an earlier post nutrition is not Mr. J’s friend. When Mr. J and I met his eating habits were questionable at best. Everything was processed, and there was not a green vegetable to be seen. To him the four food groups were: sugar, whole milk, coffee and beef. Bless him.

I’ve spent years cleaning up his food act (along with my own) and I’m not going to lose ground by having him revert to Dinty Moore stew five nights a week. Has anyone ever even smelled that stuff? That goes double for Wolf Brand Chili. Yuck.

On the weekend he is home we shop and then I prepare him two entrees that he can take back and alternate and/or freeze for the next two weeks. We also discuss and then pick up which vegetables that will go best with the main dishes.

Cooking for him solves several problems:
1. Cooking for one is difficult and most people just won’t do it. Cooking for two is just easier.
2. I get to keep an eye on both of our diets and ensure that we aren’t subsisting on frozen meals or just snacking our way through the dinner hour.
3. It saves money and our diet by eating in instead of picking up take out on the way home.
4. Mr. J has said that eating something I have cooked for him is a little bit like me being there.

I will never be taken for Martha Stewart but at least I can say that I put together nutritious and (hopefully) tasty meals on both of our tables, states apart.

Bon Appétit!

P.S. I’ve very excited to report that my next blog will be a guest blog from a fellow LDR’r. In her own words you’ll get to hear her story of how she and her husband met online, met in real life and ultimately fell in love and married. Stay tuned!

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Nutrition Fairy?

Monday, September 7th, 2009

One of the best things about being married to Mr. J is that he is so easy when it comes to food. He’ll eat anything I put in front of him and be glad he got it. I know plenty of women who don’t have it that easy.

Of course, the down side of that is, when he is on his own, he’d just as soon open up a can of Campbell’s soup – sodium be damned – and eat that, with saltine crackers, naturally. And he’d call that dinner.

A reoccurring discussion we have involves nutrition.

I’m always amazed when I realize that people have such little nutrition savvy. While we were on vacation a few weeks ago, we began the well-worn track of our refrain: “Who is responsible for teaching us nutrition?”

Mr. J doesn’t understand why what he learned 30+ years ago in elementary school in Iowa (land of the corn and potato starring as “vegetables” on a dinner table near you) isn’t still relevant today.

I mumble something about accountability and ask if he’s ever heard of “Google.”

“Well the government ought to – ”

I cut him off, “Did you just say ‘the government’?” I laugh out loud. “You’re joking, right?”

But he’s not. And if he’d spent even 10 minutes searching the web for nutritional information and dietary requirements, I’d feel a pang of sympathy for him. But stubbornly he hasn’t.

One of my favorite bloggers, Cindy Sadler, summed it up nicely in her somewhat ranterific posting “There Is No Magic Health Fairy and If There Were She’d Be on the Take,”

I forwarded Cindy’s blog to my husband who after reading it responded, “Do you suppose she has our car bugged?” (We’ll talk about his conspiracy theory tendencies another time.)

My question to you is: how would you rate your nutrition savvy? How do you keep up with what is healthy and what only looks healthy? Is being separated from your sig other making it easier to be healthy? Or is it an excuse to run through a drive through? Enquiring minds want to know……

Cheers!

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