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This just in: If resumes and experience were leading factors, Barack Obama would have never been President

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

I firmly believe that curious, passionate, and determined people can learn anything to do any job. Character is much more important than resume bullets. This idea is rare in the job search and hiring processes, and I think that’s a shame.

A friend of mine who is abundantly talented told me the other day that she was worried that she wasn’t qualified for jobs that really interested her. To bolster her confidence, I said this: if corporate recruiters were in charge of placing the next President the same way that they place people in other jobs, Barack Obama would have never made it onto the short list much less gotten the job. In 2008, if we compared his resume and experience side-by-side with Hilary Clinton and John McCain, he wouldn’t have made it through the phone screen with HR. He made it to the highest office on grit, passion, intellect, and charisma. He rose by lifting all of us and inspiring us during a dark and frightening time. He was a junior senator who hadn’t even served a full term in the U.S. Senate, and that was his first federal office. He made it on character, not by his resume.

Politics aside, if Barack Obama can get into office and figure out how to do the job of President of the United State of America in the midst of the worst recession in our history (to name just one of his many incredible challenges), we can figure out how to do any job. Stop second-guessing your talents and abilities. Don’t take yourself out of the running by not applying to jobs that really interest you. Throw your hat in the ring, explain your passion and commitment to getting the job done, and go for it! It worked for Barack Obama during the highest of stakes. It can work for us, too.

This just in: Mastering the online video interview for your job search

Mastering the video interview

Mastering the video interview

Most of my interviews during my recent job search process were conducted via Skype and Google Hangout. This was a totally new experience for me, and I learned a lot along the way. If you find yourself having a video interview as you look for a new job, here are a few tips I learned during this process. (They’re equally as valuable for companies conducting video interviews, as you’ll see in the last tip at the bottom of the post.)

– Dress for these interviews the way you would for an in-person interview, shoes and all. (I even had my handbag with me!) Taking a line from my theater days – if you want the role, you need to wear the costume and wear it well.

– Know how your video works on your computer or mobile device. I used my laptop, though I could have just as easily used my iPad or mobile phone. Arrive early so that you’re ready to go as soon as the other party logs in.

– Make sure there is a very plain, nondescript background for the interview. Sit in a chair, not the couch nor in bed.

– Make sure the area is free from all distractions and excess noise, including pets, kids, roommates, noisy neighbors, etc. I love my pup, Phin, with all my heart, but he wasn’t at my video interviews.

– Smile, maintain eye contact, and let your personality shine just as you would during an in-person interview.

– And this one is just to add a bit of comedy, as in truth in comedy.Smoking, eating, and cursing during an interview is not professional. Don’t do it, and don’t take a job working with anyone who does. In my case, someone actually did all of these things while interviewing me. I’m glad it happened because it was a big red flag. It changed the way I viewed the company, and was one of the reasons I declined the offer when I received it weeks later. If that’s how they conduct themselves while interviewing me, I couldn’t expect much more from them while working shoulder-to-shoulder in an office.

Have you had any video interviews? What was your experience and what tips do you have for others preparing for them?

This just in: Clarity on what I wanted in a new job plus local search, resume, and cover letter tips

Job search

Job search

When I decided to close my consulting practice and devote myself to a job search, I thought a lot about what I wanted in this next chapter of my career. After that, I focused my search on the D.C. area since that’s where I wanted to move and then used a set of tips for my resume and cover letter to make them applicable to the jobs that interested me. (The following is what worked for me, but is by no means definitive nor fully comprehensive.)

How I gained clarity on the kind of role and the kind of company
To get clarity on the job I wanted, I thought about the jobs I’ve had in the past. Which ones did I like the most and why? Which ones did I like the least and why? What was it about being an independent consultant that made me want to close down my practice and engage in the job search?

I developed very clear and detailed answers that related to the role and to the kind of company, and these were separate answers. I knew I loved working with products, tangible or virtual, rather than with services, and the invention process is very important to me. I also love relationship building and one of my favorite roles is to bring a wide variety of voices together to build something that makes the world a better place. I am also very passionate about the innovative use of technology to solve problems, content development, education, and environmental conservation.

I’ve worked in companies that range from one person to 56,000 people in the private sector, nonprofit, and government. Given my varied career, I had a lot of data and information to sift. It was worth it for me to write out what I wanted on paper in my own handwriting. And then I refined that explanation until I had it down to three sentences: one that described the kind of role (product development and management), another that described the kind of company (either a startup or a more established company that is reinventing itself), and the final one that described the industry (mission-based company that builds a better world, education and environmental sustainability being the ideal).    

Why I decided to search locally
I met with a recruiter early on in my process. I knew I wanted to focus on Washington D.C. and she explained that it would be best if I could move to D.C. to job search. There’s a lot of talent in the D.C. area and companies rarely have to look outside the beltway to fill a role. Also, moving here to job search showed that I was committed to making this move and didn’t need a relocation package to do it. I was able to complete my job search in 7 weeks. It probably would have been a lot longer if I was searching long-distance. The money I spent on rent is likely less than what I would have spent on last-minute plane tickets. (And I’m very grateful that I have friends with a great apartment that was immediately available!)

Resume tips
Now that I have 17 years of work experience, it was time to move to a 2-page resume format. With more room, I could really detail my projects and accomplishments. Here are several formatting tips I received from a recruiter:

– Remove your street address and just go with the city, state, and zip. This is for safety reasons. You may elect to publish your resume on job search sites like Indeed.com.

– List areas of expertise at the top of the resume in a table.

– Right justify the dates of each role in the first line (the same one that has the title of the role left justified)

Cover letter tips
– Tie key parts of your experience and skills directly to the responsibilities of the job you’re applying to. I also suggest using the same key words used in the job description.

– Use your introductory paragraph to briefly and powerfully explain why the job interests you. If you can bring in a bit of personal and professional experience to this intro, all the better!

– Keep it brief and poignant. No more than one page long.

I hope these tips are helpful! Tomorrow I’ll share how I prepared for and conducted the interviews I had via Skype and Google Hangout (a new experience for me this time around!)

This just in: My new job and how I found it

Job search resources

Job search resources

I just completed the job search for the next chapter of my career. After 7 weeks of on-the-ground searching in D.C., I’m joining an education tech startup called STEAM Engine, Inc. as the Product Manager. I’m tremendously happy to combine my passions for education, environmental conservation, technology, and product management all into one job with a mission-based organization. It’s truly a dream job for me.

I know a lot of you are in the process of looking for a new job, or are thinking about looking for a new job, so I’m putting together a series of posts to share my process in the hopes that it helps you. To kick that off, I want to loudly and clearly dispel a common rumor: networking is tremendously helpful but it’s not the only way of finding a new job.

I found the role for STEAM Engine on Indeed.com. I sent my resume and cover letter via email as stated in the job description to the recruiter running the search. That’s it. I didn’t know anyone at the company nor did I know the recruiter. No one lobbied for me to help me get an interview. Would that have helped if I did have a connection? Maybe, but it wasn’t a requirement.

So, if you know what your dream job or dream company is and don’t have a connection there, don’t be discouraged. An inside track isn’t the only way to get your dream job. There are many ways it can happen, and passion and determination can take you there.

I was very fortunate to find quite a few jobs and companies that interested me here in D.C. The market is very strong, and opportunities are everywhere. I spent at least 6-8 hours a day every day on my job search, and most of that was done online. Here are the sites I regularly reviewed to find jobs that interested me:

Indeed.com
Idealist.org
Philanthropy.com
Alumni websites for my alma maters (Penn, UVA, and Darden)
Simplyhired.com
Ventureloop.com
Mediabistro.com

All of these sites gave me the option to set up alerts based on parameters I could customize. I reviewed these alerts daily to stay on top of any new openings. It also gave me the chance to see which companies were hiring so even if a role wasn’t a fit for me, I could click-through to the career section of the company’s website to see if they had another role that was a good fit for me.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about how I got clarity on the kind of role and company I wanted and how I explained my goal to others. I’ll also share some resume and cover letter tips that also helped me in my search. Got job search questions? Please send them over. I’d love to help in any way I can.

Happy hunting!

This just in: The career you choose impacts the state of the world

Build a better world by building a better career

Build a better world by building a better career

This week I’m in the midst of many big and heady discussions about industries that demand rapid and radical transformation: healthcare, education, and the state of the planet for starters. We cannot close our eyes to the enormous problems we face as individuals and as a society. The good news is that we have everything we need to change our fortune—technology, know-how, and our imaginations. The trick is to find ways to unleash and connect them on a massive, actionable scale. And that scale lies within all of us building meaningful and impactful careers.

It’s easy to develop a solution that solves part of a problem. We’ll help some people and manage the costs with a relative degree of effectiveness. For a while, the band-aid will hold. We could almost fool ourselves into thinking this is okay, that it’s the best we can do with what we’ve got. Mediocrity is ours for the taking and my suggestion is to shun it with every ounce of strength we’ve got. We can and must do better starting now.

We could watch the news about California’s austerity measures in the face of the most horrible drought in its history and say, “That has nothing to do with me. I live thousands of miles away and I have plenty of water where I am.” The truth is that California is the canary in the coal mine.California will be everyone’s realty if we don’t take action to reverse course now. Think of all that’s been wasted there sustaining thirsty lawns in the middle of a desert for the sake of aesthetics. I actually feel a pain in my heart thinking about it. What have we done? What are we continuing to do by just going through the motions of life as usual? And if we think we have war now, imagine what will happen when we’re fighting over water rights that literally draw the line between life and death. Without water, debates about nukes are irrelevant.

These same kinds of scenarios are also true in education and healthcare. Our public education stats are appalling because we have failed to engage students and care for all of their needs from having enough food to eat to living in a safe neighborhood to nurturing their imaginations. We may be experiencing the rise of a lost generation of talent and potential because of the state of public education, and we can’t afford that. In healthcare, we discard our elders, dismiss patient concerns, and believe that quantity, churn, and lowering costs take precedence over patient experience and compassionate care. How we treat the sick, the young, and the old says a lot about who we are as a society. And I want us to be better because I know we’re capable of it right now.

Let’s stop making excuses and start doing and making things that matter for the long haul. We’ve got all of the technology and know-how we need. We each possess the most marvelous machine ever created – the human mind. Let’s join them and use them to develop career that are callings, callings to build a better, healthier, happier world.

Beautiful: Programmer and Front-End Designer Needed for a Therapeutic Mobile App for Compass Yoga

CollabFinder_Block_logoSo here it is – I’m unveiling the details of one of the big projects I’m working on during my creative break in LA this summer. For about a year, I’ve been kicking around the idea of building a therapeutic yoga app. I’m now actively searching for a front-end designer and a programmer for this project. If you have either of these skill sets, please let me know. If you know someone who might be interested, please send them my way.

Details about the project are available on CollabFinder. Click here to view my project page.

Beautiful: Forget Job Searching. Instead, Create the Job of Your Dreams.

eb20a4bca686ede0d04a1cc9628f3e6bImagine if college wasn’t about preparing you for the job search. Instead, imagine that it was a 4-year haven for you to grow the skills that most interest you and for you to craft your own business that utilizes those skills. Over 3 million people graduate from 4-year colleges every year in the U.S. That’s potentially 3 million startups created every single year.

Imagine what that would mean for our economy, for our communities, and for education. Tom Friedman did just that in his New York Times column last week. Soon, we won’t have to imagine. This is the reality for our children today, and for their children, and so on. They will be job creators, not job seekers. Our society and our economy are changing rapidly. The paradigm of work and income is shifting, and there will be no turning back. This is a transformation in the economy that is moving full-steam ahead.

Rather than asking our kids what they want to be when they grow up, we need to help them figure out what they intend to build. And then we need to set that example for them in our own careers.

Beautiful: Consider Taking a Crappy Job

2b22a1692e52c0522ffd195cd829ba27“What???” you might be saying to yourself. “Christa, the self-appointed evangelist for only doing work you love, is suggesting I take a crappy job?” Yes, yes I am. Under 3 big, fat conditions. It must be: 1.) temporary, 2.) lead to something you love, and 3.) possible to keep your dignity. Let me give you an example.

When I first moved to New York in 1998, I took an incredibly crappy job to follow my dream to work on Broadway shows. (This is more years ago than I really care to admit but since this story benefits you, I’m going to let that slide.) I sat on the floor of a very cramped theatre office opening mail, speaking to screaming customers, getting coffee, and doing just about any horrible job they needed done for $10 / hour.

Taking that crappy job was the best career decision I ever made because it got me inside a theatre which is exactly where I wanted to be. My boss was so appreciative of my work that I was promoted two and a half months later (on my birthday) to a slightly less crappy job managing a box office. In my new role, customers still screamed at me and I got a new boss who was completely awful (which was really unfortunate since I loved my first boss at that theatre), but now I was making $15 / hour and managed a team.

I spent 9 months “in the box” as I affectionately referred to my time there, and on my lunch break one day I ran into a college acquaintance totally by chance who put me on the trail of a job that let me go out on my first theatre tour. On tour, customers still screamed at me and I had a second really awful boss, but now I was making A LOT more money, traveling the country, and running a whole company.

Life was good, until it wasn’t, and then I quit, moved to Florida, and 6 months later got a great job with a great boss and lots of responsibility. There I learned how to be a fundraiser. Unfortunately, it only paid $13 / hour. I took it any way. That was the second best decision I ever made in my career.

My theatre career was a series of trade-offs. I worked my way from job to job gaining experience, making money, then making less money, and then taking my career in an entirely different direction. When I look back, I took those crappy jobs for all the right reasons. They were all temporary (which to be honest is true for every job eventually), they all led me to do things I love to do (working in a theatre, raising money for causes I care about, and managing a team), and I always kept my dignity. Even when customers were screaming at me, I was empowered to help them. Even when my few bad bosses were doing things like throwing staplers around the office and cursing out everyone who came near them, I learned how to stand my ground, stick up for people I cared about, and be confident in the face of great difficulty.

Most of all, those crappy jobs showed me the power of determination and the strength of my own abilities to make a rough situation much better. My presence in those jobs mattered, to the mission of the organizations and to the people around me. And that was a wonderful, beautiful thing. It still is. I’m incredibly proud of the work I did as a theatre manager and to this day I will tell anyone who will listen that it was the very best business training I’ve ever had. It taught me to take calculated risks and go after my dreams.

Your crappy job may do the same for you. If it does, I think it’s worthy of consideration. Sometimes, the very best opportunities aren’t the ones that are shiny and bright but the ones that require our efforts to make them shine.

Beautiful: 2 Books from No Starch Press that Make Coding Fun for Kids (and Adults Too!)

STEM learning. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It’s one of the hottest topics in education today and for good reason. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 1.2 million job openings for computer science graduates by 2018, but current U.S. graduation rates will provide qualified workers for only one-third of those positions,” says Edie Fraser of the Huffington Post. No Starch Press is doing its part to turn that trend around with the release of 2 new books aimed at teaching kids to code.

Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming (Ages 10+) and Super Scratch Programming Adventure! (Ages 8+) are kid-friendly, carefully crafted, and eminently entertaining. They take the complex art and science of coding and turn its mastery into a game. These books break down coding into bite-sized, step-by-step lessons in a language that is easily understood by those who are not familiar with coding.

Known for its ease of use for beginning coders, Python is a powerful programming language. It’s remarkably easy to read and write when compared to other programming languages. It is free to install on all basic operating systems. Python for Kids will help your little one builds graphics and games, giving them the satisfaction of seeing their work come to life.

Scratch is a programming language created by MIT Media Lab to build video games. It is also free to install on all basic operating systems. Each chapter of Super Scratch Programming Adevnture! helps kids to design and build increasingly complex video games while teaching them the basic principles of coding.

Best of all, these books are not only valuable for kids, but also for adults who are interested in learning how to code. In my own pursuit to understand programming on a deeper level, I have started to work through them myself. Whether you just want to know a little bit more about coding or have an interest in developing a deep knowledge in the subject, these books are the perfect place to begin your journey into the wide and wonderful world of code.

Increasingly, writing code is becoming a necessary job skill and we would all do well to at least deepen our appreciation of what it takes to build the websites and applications that we access on a daily basis. Who knows? Learning to code may just make you the most valuable person around the office or it may prompt you to take your career in a completely new direction. One thing’s for sure – coders are in high demand and will only become more so as our appetite for ever-more sophisticated tech products and services continues to grow. You might as well join them and these books give you the perfect jumping off point to get yourself in the game.

Leap: Two Great Jobs Looking for Great Applicants – Sesame Workshop and The Mind Fitness Training Institute

From Pinterest

Yesterday I learned about two great job opportunities that I wanted to pass along. If you’re interested, please let me know and I can get more information to you!

The first is at Sesame Workshop where I am a consultant for The Joan Ganz Cooney Center (JGCC), the digital media research lab at Sesame. So, the best part of this job is that you’d get to work with me. (Kidding, kind of.) JGCC is hiring a Senior Project Manager to work on a wide variety of impactful projects around education and technology. The job is posted on Idealist.org and is now taking applications. I could fill up a whole post with the perks of this job, but I’ll keep it short and say that the JGCC team is stellar, the projects are filled with goodness, and there is flexibility in schedule. The job is based in New York City at the Sesame Workshop offices. (Yes, where Grover, Cookie, Elmo, and the whole gang spend their time.) Click here for the complete job description and to apply.

The second is an Executive Director role with The Mind Fitness Training Institute. This is a DC area 501(c)(3) non-profit research and training organization dedicated to teaching mindfulness and resilience skills that enhance performance and strengthen response to stress, change and uncertainty. The job is not yet posted but if you are interested in learning more about it, please let me know and I will get the details for you from my friend who let me know about the opportunity.

I like to help good people work with good causes. Please pass on these opportunities through your network.

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