Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Ghosts of Jobs Past - Part 1

I work as a contract employee for the Army.  A significant part of the last two years have been embroiled in upheaval.  Every time the contract I am working on is rebid, there is a chance that I may wind up without a job.  I’ve been working on various contracts for over eleven years and have had various outcomes at rebid time - company loses rebid and I get hired by the winning company, company loses rebid but is able to find a slot for me in another organization, company wins rebid.  I’ve never had a gap in my employment, but the older I get the more tenuous my position seems to be.  I was able to ride out the past economic craziness because the defense industry was so strong, but I also know that I can’t count on this forever, and I have been known to make myself crazy worrying about what might happen after the current contract expires.
This uncertainty has had me reflecting on past jobs and trying to figure out how I got to this point in my life and what I can glean from my past employment to help me if I need to start over.  The first job I ever had was babysitting for neighborhood kids, and it got me to thinking that babysitting as a teenager was a lot like what I do now.  Back then, if people didn’t need a babysitter, you didn’t work.  It didn’t matter that you were a great person or if the kids loved you.  If the family you sat for didn’t have a wedding to go to or a New Year’s Eve party, they didn’t need you.  Probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to appreciate is that no matter how much an employer likes you and the job you do, if the work or the money to pay you isn’t available, you don’t work. 
I couldn’t do much about my neighbors’ social life, but I figured out pretty quickly that I could make myself more attractive as a sitter by straightening up the house after the kids went to bed.  Seldom was I the only sitter that a family might hire and while we were all equally responsible, I stumbled onto the fact that people really appreciated getting more than they’d counted on and actively worked that angle.  I wish I could say I was crafty enough to have started doing this intentionally, but the truth is that I was probably bored one night and there wasn’t much on TV, so I went into the kitchen and washed the dishes in the sink.  The response I got was so overwhelmingly upbeat that I continued to look for ways to get that positive feedback that would tell me that I was valued by the family that hired me.  It made an impression that has stuck with me ever since and has served me well. 
I also learned to pay attention and to notice when other people do things right.  Had my babysitting customer not noticed what I did, the chances of me doing it again would have been unlikely.  The simple fact is, everyone hears about it when they do something wrong.  When someone does something right, it is well worth the time it takes to notice it and remark on it.  It’s kind of like writing thank you notes.  Writing a note is the right thing to do out of gratitude for a gift or act of kindness, but on a practical level, it usually leads to more gifts and acts of kindness.  It seems kind of crass, but it really is how things to work.
I suppose then, I need to remember what I learned back in junior high school.  I need to remember that I shouldn’t worry as much about whether or not there will be a job for me when the next contract comes up.  It will either be there or it will not and it is a big waste of time to focus my energy there.  I need to keep my attention on doing the best work that I can while looking for ways to improve the job that I am doing and acquire new skills and knowledge.  I also need to find all that is right with my situation and build on that.  Besides, at some point I decided I needed to do something other than babysitting, and I ended up getting a job at the mall.  If dorky sixteen year old me could figure that out, I am pretty confident that adult me will be able to if or when the time comes.
The Butcher

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Still not so hilarious

For someone who has a hard time shutting up in real life, sitting here trying to come up with something to say has been amazingly difficult.  It absolutely does not help that as I find other bloggers and look at what they have accomplished, I realize that I may have a fundamental problem.  Instead of going online and learning all of these tools in an effort to focus on career development, I have been opened up to all sorts of possibilities that I hadn’t expected and are totally distracting me from my original goal. 
This isn’t a new thing for me.  I can pinball from one project or task while never actually finishing anything.  I am always busy, but seldom do I complete anything. I had been making some headway on this.  I did finish my hand knit Zombie Sock Monkey (without a pattern, thank you very much), but that was something I started prior to this blog / Facebook / Etsy / Twitter / LinkedIn project.  Now, I find myself following a great blog Carmenandginger that feeds into my love of all things second hand.  Not only do I spend way too much time reading her blog, it also makes me want to run off to the nearest flea marker.  Unfortunately, my love for old stuff got me to the place where I needed to start an Etsy store (SockMonkeysAndBacon) to get rid of my stash.  Can you see my problem here? 
I have found that there is a whole world of food bloggers out there who are just waiting to give me one more chocolate cupcake recipe. To that end, might I suggest Evilshenanigans and the Chocolate Italian Wedding Cupcakes with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting?  I just made them yesterday to rave reviews.  Of course both batches of Quick Sour Cream Cinnamon Rolls that I made from this blog were a hit with the whole family too.  I can usually satisfy myself by dumping online recipes into my ever-growing stash, but this blog actually gets me to move into the kitchen and bake.  That is double distraction and frankly I’d be better off learning how to grow vegetables or make salads, if you catch my drift. 
On the plus side, I am hearing things from my kids (age 19 and 23) that I never expected to hear.  My one daughter told me via facebook about my twitter posts that “I never thought I'd have to tell you this, but you use hash-tags too much.” and a recent status posted by my other daughter on facebook about a recent text to her, "'If you were following me on twitter, you'd have found out sooner.' My mother is getting OUT OF CONTROL."  Hey, I have heard worse constructive criticism. Either one is better than being told that you have sprouted some new facial hair or that you are using way too much self tanner.
I guess that for now, I will be grateful for the new ways that I am learning to connect, and I will probably allow myself a little more time to play, but ultimately I will need to either focus on my original goals, or reassess the whole purpose of blogging. 
If you have any ideas, or if you want to tell me about your adventures, I’d love to hear them.
The Butcher

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Two weeks in…

This is only my third post in two weeks and obviously this is not going smoothly.  You can just thank me now for all the pompous crap I’ve deleted.  In no particular order, this is what I’ve learned so far.

  1. Blogging is hard.  I feel like I now have a perpetual yet undefined homework assignment hanging over my head. 
  2. Twitter is really, really fun and useful.  For now I am using it to keep track of random thoughts and observations in much the same way I might use a sketch pad or notebook.  Please feel free to follow me @ChristineAtWFOH
  3. A good way to get people to your Facebook fan page is to feature something of theirs and tell them.  Sometimes they bring friends and those friends bring a new dynamic.  SockMonkeysAndBacon on Facebook
  4. FAQs are your best friend, and full of good tips.  Unfortunately I still don’t use them enough.
  5. It is trickier to get people to find you and follow you than it might seem.  Even if something works, you can’t stop trying to find other strategies and communities.

I still haven’t gotten the energy to fully tackle LinkedIn.  My resume is in better shape and I’ve looked up a few folks, but I need to make some time for that.  Don’t even ask about the web page.  It seemed like a good idea, and I have some stuff filed on it, but that may stay more of a collaborative space for the three of us. 

I am still waiting for more comments on this blog, so if you have anything to say – even just hello – please do so. Thanks to those who have bothered to join and/or comment.  It is way more fun with you on board.

PS The last post about graphics could have used an introduction.  It was a reference to some of the frustrations common to my last job in a graphics office.  I guess good structure will help in the future.  Thanks for your patience.
The Butcher

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Graphics Faux Pas - Part 1

  1. Comic Sans:  If you have to ask you should probably just stop reading now.  Unless you are under the age of ten. 
  2. Any Default Setting in PowerPoint or Similar Programs:  If they are giving it to you, they think you are too dumb to really use their tools so they will give you the most gaudy option because they assume you must be easily distracted by shiny objects.
  3. All Caps in Ornate Fonts:  We can’t read it, and the only reason you can read it, is because you wrote it.  Trust me, no one else can read it.
  4. Distorted Aspect Ratios:  A tall, skinny picture will never fit into a square space unless you cut some off the top or bottom and we will notice if you try to squish it in. I promise. 
  5. Lot o’ Outlines:  Figure out how to get rid of them and do it.  You can always add one or two back later even though you probably shouldn’t.
  6. More Than Three Different Fonts at a Time:  Trained professionals can get away with this but you cannot. 
  7. Thinking I Need a Portfolio Piece More Than Money:  Really, I’d prefer to get paid like a big lady.
  8. Asking Me to Fix Something Your Nephew or Spouse Started and Messed Up:  Especially if you went to them because you didn’t want to pay me to do it right in the first place.
  9. Resolution:  If you don’t understand why a 2”x2” 100 dpi graphic you stole off the web won’t make a good poster, you shouldn’t be making posters.
  10. Gradients:  These are kind of like loaded weapons.  They have a use, but are best left to those who respect them.
The Butcher

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Why a blog?

I really don’t have a good answer for this question.  I don’t need another project that is for damn sure.  I work full time in a job that pays well and that I like well enough.  I really have no complaints, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel that things in general are slipping through my fingers.  I’ve talked this over with a lot of people, especially those over 40, and we are all at the same point in our lives; we are pretty sure that we will have to find another job in our life, and that social media will play a big part in that search, and that none of us really know how to use it.  What’s more, we are all busy with work, kids, hobbies, school, spouses, and parents so learning another “thing” seems exhausting. 
Of course, we all suspect that NOT learning how to use social media is not an option either.  On top of that, for every benefit you gain from social media, there are a seemingly endless number of pitfalls to not using it carefully or wisely.  To that end, myself and two good friends have decided to start a blog, start to use twitter, clean up our LinkedIn profiles and try to figure some of this out before a crisis hits.  There may be other forums (I have a Facebook fan page for my Etsy site, for example - SockMonkeysAndBacon), but we are trying to see where this takes us organically.
Please do not be surprised at links that go nowhere or lots of links to odd places.  Just ask some of my family on Facebook how truly awful I am.    As for the name, well the short answer is that I used to work with a great group of people and we formed the kind of team that most people only dream of.  We worked hard, and the thread that held us all together was a creative, funny sensibility, coupled with extreme competence and stellar work ethics.  We found ourselves hilarious then, and even though our team has been dismantled still We Find Ourselves Hilarious.

The Butcher