Always Get Better

Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

How to Win at Work

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

It isn’t really hard to do well in a job; you just have to apply yourself and put the work first. Just like during the interview, your boss or employer’s motivation is not to give you a hard time or to make your life difficult; all they really want is to get the work done and make money.

A lot of employees seem to approach their job the same way they approached high school: as an institution with fixed rules and authority figures. In this mindset, the best way to succeed is by doing what the teacher (boss) dictates to the minimum acceptable level. Over time, it is possible to rise to the top on the merits of “years of good service”.

Let’s be honest with ourselves: there is surely a more fulfilling way to spend the majority of our day.

Fail Fast
If we look at the best, most successful entrepreneurs, we’ll find a list of failed companies leading up to their home run enterprise. Good entrepreneurs know that there is no secret to success – it is necessary to keep trying and learning from failures until we finally reach our goals. The best thing we can learn is to fail fast so we can move on to success faster.

This flies in the face of the ordinary way of thinking which is to avoid failure. Failure hurts, but if we can learn to accept it, we can open the way to more resounding success.

Do It On Your Own Time
Your boss does not care about your personal growth. As a programmer, the company is not obligated to teach you the newest programming technology. The company is interested in turning a profit, and in order to afford to pay an employee, they need to earn several times the cost of that employee in order to maintain profitability.

So how do you get new skills and remain relevant in a changing work environment? You need to study and learn, especially during your free time. Not sure what you should be studying? Read job boards – you will get a feeling for what is trending and what skills are in demand. You don’t have to be job seeking, but having a polished resume and portfolio will keep your mind sharp and improve the quality of work you already deliver.

Make the Boss Look Good
While you’re busy learning all your new languages and technologies, the boss is responsible for making sure work gets done and that profits are earned for their boss. So what’s the best way to get bumped up in line for that next promotion? Make your boss look good.

If you are pulling your weight plus more, your boss will look more effective, which will raise everybody’s boat. The best way to get noticed is by being responsible for everyone’s success. But wait – didn’t we say to embrace failure? By failing early and fast, we set ourselves up for our greatest successes. Don’t settle for status quo – always get better.

How to Hire a Social Media Expert

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

I am seeing an alarming trend on my beloved Facebook. Several of my friends (ok, I haven’t really kept tabs on them for years) have become “social media experts”. You can tell who is pushing at this stuff because they start tweeting dozens of times per hour, washing out all relevant contact from your home feed. They start using @reply and #hashtags and linking to other “social media experts” blog postings about the importance of Social Media and oh-goodness-your-company-doesn’t-understand-this-like-I-do-but-I-guarantee-results-for-you!

Honestly, this kind of behaviour has become textbook newbie behaviour.

The Buzz Bin has put together a list of ways to vet would-be social media experts.

I swear if I ever see ‘social media guru’ on someone’s resume, I will not hire them.

Overwork and the Creative Work Ethic

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
Street Hassle
Creative Commons License photo credit: 2thin2swim

The massive amount of time required to improve at your craft is one aspect of creative work that is hard for outsiders to understand. When you stake your career and reputation on everything you do, it’s not a job that you work at from 9 to 5, “put in” your hours, then shut off and go home. Your entire existence is invested in succeeding and improving, not just for the paycheque (although, let’s be honest, a great salary is a definite motivator).

For someone who is content to just punch the clock, our world is the domain of work-aholics, people who don’t understand the need for balance in our lives – or the inclusion of family. We see it much differently, of course. To us, making an impact is more important than making a day.

Take a minute to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit that drives you to keep pushing through and ultimately succeed where others would fail by giving up long ago. There’s only one way to push the limits and that is by continually pushing.

Now take a step back and try to consider the other side of it. The family side outside of work and its struggle against the career that seems to require your entire being. You may have a hard time trying to explain that you need to feed the career to feed your soul, but you need to understand that your family needs to occupy an equally important part of your attention.

Let’s stay focused: Work is important, but if it comes at the cost of ourselves is it worth the effort?

Resumes Are Better Without Alphabet Soup

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

You can spot them a mile away – resumes that look like someone loaded up a Microsoft Word template, punched in their information, then sent it to every job posting they could find.

Does this sound at all like your resume?

They probably start with an Objective statement proclaiming the candidate’s desire to secure a position among a progressive and upward-mobile organization.

Next up is the candidate’s skills, a veritable alphabet soup of every technology they ever came across. Honestly, does anybody really have useful knowledge of everything including ASP, Java, C++, Assembly, COBOL, Lisp, Python, Erlang, Ruby, PHP and Haskell? Yes, we get that you are smart and can work in any environment we throw at you, but what are you awesome at? I can’t tell.

Next is education, usually just the program name and sometimes a GPA. No real details about what the program consisted of – the point, after all, is that the candidate has an education, right?

Finally, the awful listing of every company the candidate has ever worked at going all the way back to the summer job they had in high school. Each is illustrated with so many jargon-filled bullet points that the resume takes up three pages and gives no really useful information about the candidate or their skills.

Sad to say, most resumes fit this pattern. The good news for you is the bar is set low which means it can be incredibly easy to stand out from the crowd.

Lose the Objective
The objective statement is the biggest sin academia has thrust into the world. The company you’re applying for does not care about your objectives and long term plan; their concern is finding a skilled worker who can meet their objects. Sorry to re-use a tired paraphrase, but ask yourself what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you. Leave your expectations out of the mix until you hit the negotiation stage.

Less is More
Rather than listing every programming language you’ve ever heard of, list the top 2 or 3 you’re best at. If that means you can only list PHP because you live breathe and eat it, do so.

This is a bit intuitive: Showing a dozen skills will not keep the doors open for the best possible job. The reverse is true – rather than leaving recruiters confused as to whether you’re a good fit for their job, let them filter you if need be. Think about it – if you are that amazing PHP programmer, do you really want to be developing COBOL on mainframes all day?

Tell a Story
Try to put yourself in the shoes of the person who will be reading your resume. They will be reading other people’s resumes as well, most of which will look alike except for the author name at the top of each page. It should be a fairly easy job – just pick the candidate whose skill set matches the requirements of the job and hire them.

The reality is much more difficult. Even if a manager has the budget needed to hire someone, they may not be able to find the right person to fill the job. Skill is only part of the story – personality also plays a large factor. It isn’t enough to have someone who knows the job; it has to be someone who will fit in with the team and be a pleasure to work with.

Don’t just talk about your skills – talk about you. What do you bring to your work that no one else on earth can duplicate? You could start with a ‘hobbies’ section on your resume, but I recommend injecting as much of your own voice everywhere you can.

Rather than simply describing your job functions for each position you held, write about what your learned during your time at each company. What contributions were you able to make to the bottom line? Remember, your potential employer is hiring you because they want to make money.

Facebook, Privacy and Drunken Photos

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

As a user of Facebook (not to mention a longtime net citizen) I am well aware of the slimy feeling one gets when their image is bared for all to see. The owned application comes to mind first – strangers ‘bidding’ for your uploaded photos on Facebook, with the owner of the ‘purchased’ photograph receiving an obnoxious “you’ve been bought by X” email. I haven’t posted any compromising photos of myself (that would be silly) but the thought of my image being a component of someone’s “collection” is creepy to me.

Enter sites like YoBusted; members post photos and tag for the public to see – if you are the subject of a particularly hilarious (read: embarrassing) photo, you can remove it by signing up to a $20/month membership. Although some have suggested that YoBusted’s business model is nothing more than simple extortion, proving that claim in a court would be difficult – and what’s to stop a copycat site from doing the same thing (they probably already are).

The solution: guard your personal data. Don’t fill your Facebook profile with personal photos – if you do post pictures, make sure to adjust your privacy settings so strangers are unable to view your profile.

Don’t post drunken photos of yourself on the Internet! It may be funny in the context of your friends but any content you post to the Internet is indexed, cached and eventually findable. Future employers (maybe future voters and journalists will search your information online; when they do, what do you want them to see?

Can’t Change Country of Adobe Account

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Aside the from the bloated abomination that is Acrobat Reader, I can confess that I am a proponent of software from Adobe.  As a long time user of Photoshop and Illustrator, I have always found their products to be powerful and usable.

Recently I’ve taken up time creating applications with a trial version of Flex Builder.  This is the first time I have ever really given a product a full test drive during the trial – normally it gets used once or twice then forgotten about.  Flex Builder is a solid product, built on a great platform.  I can’t get enough of it.

Since I truly like this software, I decided to go ahead and plug in my credit card information to get myself a full copy.  When I got to the Adobe online store though, I was sadly let down by my experience.

I am in Canada but for some reason my existing account has ‘United States’ listed as my address.  Not a big deal, I’ll just change it, right?  No – it is not a changeable field.  You can change your region on the Adobe site but that doesn’t affect your account at all.  If I can’t change my country, I can’t order online because my credit card information will be wrong.

Not a big deal – I called the sales phone number and explained what my problem was, hoping to order the product by phone.  You can’t order software for download by phone, they will only ship it to you.  I’d much rather just have the serial number, so I am transferred to the online support department to get the country of my account changed.

Once I noticed my phone timer had reached 37 minutes, I hung up and tried searching the Internet for a solution to Adobe’s problem.  I found this blog:

Basically, you can’t change your country.  The only way to do it is to create a new account with the correct country.  It would have been nice if the gentleman in sales had known to tell me that instead of letting me wait on hold for an indefinite period of time.

Really, the reason I am most angry is because the muzak that plays on Adobe’s hold line is not just obnoxious, it’s too loud.  Right now my head is ringing and I still have no Flex Builder to play with.