Go Mitch!

Another week of Alone and Mitch remains… but so do the other three! I thought I might have written it in the prior post, but I don’t see that I thought Sam had a good chance of being next to tap out. Well, this episode clinched that sense. He was done. Except they ended the episode with no departures, and with only two episodes to go! Not counting the pseudo-episode they have online, in which they do an episode length thing with the guys who left before, and preview what’s next. I didn’t watch that yet. Looks like it was there prior to episode 8.

Mitch, as I expected, at least made a start toward recovering from the gill net loss. None of the guys are in the best spirits. Even Alan. Sam continues to have the worst food issues, and now seems to have the worst morale. When Mitch grumbled about the cold, I was telling the screen “I’ve seen you camp out in a blizzard!” Granted, that didn’t end well and he was able to hoof back out and get home to recover, but it wasn’t the cold or snow that was the big problem then. He did make an excellent point about being less motivated for himself alone than he would be to provide for his family were they also there.

Lucas could have had a bad time, being in between shelters right as the cold hit hard. He is amazing, building a yurt, when he already appeared to have as good a shelter as any. Then building a stringed instrument and making up a song about how it sucks being there now. This on top of the whole canoe thing, which I had worried might be his downfall if there were an accident.

I am assuming the last episode will go heavy on fetching the last contestant and recapping, so effectively we have one episode with heavy tap out action. Can’t wait!

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I grew up in the middle of the woods. Lately I have regretted not taking more advantage of it. In the past year or so, I’ve gotten into some of the survival videos people post on YouTube. This at the same time I’ve done some camping with the kids the past few years.

The guy whose videos I have watched most avidly, Mitch, is on a History Channel show called Alone. Part of the reason I latched on to his videos in particular, besides obvious skill, was that he was obviously local. I kept trying to figure out just how local to me, and where the woods he regularly filmed in might be. They could have been my woods, when I was young. I had the run of something near a square mile that had houses only on parts of the periphery, with our house and one other in the interior.

Sadly, I never learned exactly how to make shelters, start fires without matches (except maybe with a magnifying glass, and despite the presence of a stockpile of chert, which we thought was flint, out past our yard), render water potable, create traps or snares, that sort of thing. If I had exactly the same surroundings now, it would be perfect for taking a backpack and minimal supplies and experimenting with staying out for the night.

Now I take the kids camping and use a ferro rod, with or without magnesium, and don’t break out the matches to start a fire. I wanted to experiment with other methods, with the kids involved, but mostly we were out driving around, and we got rained (deluged) into heading home after two nights.

Anyway, the show… It’s seven episodes in, out of ten. There are four guys left, out of ten, and they are over 30 days into staying out in the wild with minimal equipment, isolated and filming themselves. I had pegged Mitch to win. It’s a combination of rooting for the local guy of whom I have been a fan (though it turns out I had also watched YouTube videos by at least two of the other contestants), knowing his skills, and subtle cues that tell me things might have changed in a way that could reflect having won. Then again, all contestants get paid something, potentially something decent, just for being on a show like that, even without the grand prize.

Thus it’s alarming that in episode 7 things are looking grim for Mitch, as if he is likely to be next to tap out. Then again, that could be dramatic editing. At this point, all four remaining guys are amazing and worthy.

Alan actually seems best off overall, emotionally and resource-wise. Lucas is in good shape for resources, and has done some amazing things, but is an emotional wreck. Sam is starving, the most obviously suffering dramatic weight loss, but has the skills and stability needed. Though spending as much effort as the last episode made it appear on trapping mice to eat seemed like a poor focus. It might be different if he got something bigger, like a squirrel.

Three more episodes, four more to go. Someone has to give soon. It’s been two episodes with no departures and a long elapsed time. You have to figure that part of the final episode is devoted to the winner finding out he has won, and a wrap-up/recap. I would expect that once the ninth person taps out, the producers would not let the last man keep going long without letting him know he outlasted the rest. That would be cruel and not very dramatic. Here’s Mitch. Here’s Mitch some more… Yeah, they’d want to end it.

Almost as interesting as the show itself are video commentaries I came across by The Prepper’s Bunker Outdoors. Once I watch Alone on Friday (on the web morning after it airs – don’t have cable), I keep looking for the commentary video until it’s posted. They sometimes observe things I missed, or have a perspective I wouldn’t. A lot of times they say exactly what I say to the screen while Alone is playing.

But all I know is enough to be an armchair critic, not to do what those guys are doing. Maybe with some practice and learning. I believe I would cope with the “alone” part better than most people. Perhaps I am wrong. Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

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Well Then

Time flies.

This site was focused primarily on job hunting. Since I am not focused on job hunting any longer (not that I wouldn’t consider a serious opportunity appropriate to my skills, knowledge and interests, but there seems to be a lack of serious out there), future posts will trend away from that topic. I’ll be more of a semi-retired curmudgeon of limited means and less muted opinions. The economy and I seem to have rejected each other. I’ll muddle through. I’m not sure I can say the same for the wider economy, in the medium term.

Stay tuned. I shall endeavor to update this software, post now and then, and make something of this place that rises above going through the motions that prospective employers are rumored to desire. It’s time to be me.

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Earlier this week, I got a call out of the blue from a prospective employer, sort of a basic phone screen and sounding out of interest. This watos one of the “saw your resume online” calls, and was for relatively basic tech support.

That’s not my preferred idea of work, but it is one of the options that is both part of my search, and easily inferred from my experience. When asked about pay expectations, instead of the usual figure I have written on online applications, I came right out and told the guy what I needed to make minimum, and why. The wife is on disability, and at minimum I need to make enough to make up the difference. After any extra costs generated by earning it, that is. If we are talking about adding work to what I already have, not actually moving on from FedEx, I have to not quite double what I make there. Which pretty much means more money on an hourly basis for whatever I might supplement with, and somewhat more per hour for a total replacement job, plus enough for added commuting or such. Side note, the position was temp for a year with possibility of perm, so it wasn’t career-oriented, in a sense. You couldn’t move to be near it, and it wasn’t a fantastic stepping stone job. For that matter, it was in an industry I would loathe joining. But hey, a job! Someone actually called. Yay!

So they were paying $5 an hour more than my number that doesn’t consider commuting, and I said I was interested. I did that on the spur of the moment, even after learning it was in Burlington, a long commute. Not as long as when I drove for a year or so from Plympton to North Billerica, but close. The guy had only called me because he misread my location and thought I was nearer. He said he’d e-mail me and someone would call for a tech screen, but I wasn’t sure it’d actually happen. It didn’t.

In the meantime, though, I decided I couldn’t take it. A quick run through the math and opportunity cost, plus the caveats I mentioned, and it was a goner. At a relatively conservative gas price and MPG that doesn’t always happen, the gas cost was more than the amount above my minimum it would need to be. Which makes the amount I’d been asking seem much more reasonable, since it would, on that commute, be less than $10,000 above my bare minimum, which is an amount on which we’d been scraping by. Over $5000 in gas costs only considers gas, too. Not wear on the already shaky car. Not added maintenance or sooner replacement, neither of which it would leave money to do.

Nor does that consider tax consequences or opportunity costs. I calculated how much an hour it would work out to for the hours above what I already work, after gas, including a minimalist two hours a day for commuting (and forgetting the hour of lunch, bringing time involved to a minimum of 11 hours a day, nor considering food costs of lunch away from home and never being home for supper, costs of which I won’t explain here), and it came out to less per hour than I make at FedEx. It’s ugly, bottom line. If I’d had numbers clearer in my mind on the phone, I’d have dismissed it then.

All of which got me thinking about what do I do about the shortfall, and was do I want to do for income(s).

Sometimes I am reminded of my job hunt between college and the time I got into tech support. I searched for accounting work. Was I excited about it? No. But I had an accounting degree! Thus it was what I was supposed to find, what I was qualified to do. I’d just made the mistake of not wanting to be a CPA and not realizing I didn’t have to want to be a CPA to follow a CPA track to leverage myself into a business environment ASAP. Well, correction. I was excited about it, if it came down to cost accounting. I loved that and wanted to do it. I loved manufacturing environments (and have always loved shipping/receiving environments, so it makes sense it was always my fallback job). Of course, I also loved strategic management/strategic planning, but nobody was going to hire me as a CEO out of college. Turns out I love logistics and holding the entire flow/processes of an operation in my head, seeing how it all comes together and what needs to happen. I love economics. Considered minoring in it, but the minor was created rather late in my time in school. I seem to love arranging things just so, figuring out how that should be, and being completely accurate. There’s the trait that gave accounting appeal as a major. I don’t always prefer dealing with people, but I love helping and enlightening them, helping them know how to figure out things, leaving them more able than they were, even above and beyond what they specifically asked/needed.

Anyway, I looked for a kind of work I didn’t necessarily love the idea of getting. Eventually someone read more than that into my resume and I was in tech support, a job option that had not been on my radar at all.

Now reminds me of then. The obvious thing I am looking for is tech support. I can do it, and well, and even happily in the right environment. It just doesn’t fire me up. I am also looking for analyst work, be it called systems, business or data analyst, or some other variant. It appears there are a range of things construed as business analyst, with the top end being extremely well paid and credentialed, well, a bit above my level, even if not so much I couldn’t figure it out. High or low level, it hearkens back to my education plus business background, as well as feeding on my tech side to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the details. At the lowest levels it seems you’re a glorified clerk and number cruncher. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Those were the closest I could think of to something I could and should legitimately pursue and wanted to, but even at that… sometimes I feel like there is the equivalent to the jump into tech support lurking out there, waiting. I feel like the way recruitment works these days, nobody would ever see it the way they did in the early nineties. Leaving it up to me. Except I don’t see it either.

So I’ve been thinking harder… what would I do if I could do anything? What would and could I do if I were striving only to add to my existing income, not replace plus add to it? What do I love? If I only take work I really want, what would that be?

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I’m helping migrate and tweak a web site, so there’s a break in the job hunting and in the related posts.

On another note, today is my fifth anniversary with FedEx. It had already surpassed over the summer my longest time with an amployer in which I didn’t have any ownership, so it in a category of its own.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is I’d like to do, and how to cope with the booming economy, and immediate versus longer term needs. If that counts, then there’s no hiatus at all.

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SmartSource was an exception to my being unable to do other jobs while at FedEx, because for the projects in question, the work took place early on Monday mornings. FedEx is Tuesday through Saturday mornings, even earlier than SmartSource was. Funny thing was, when SmartSource first approached me, I thought the work was pure contract, 1099, and I retained that belief until after the first day I did work for them. I had not received all the paperwork. Had they been contract, this would have been part of the freelance work I grouped under Welcome to Help, shades of contracting via OnForce.

This was a set of two projects at restaurant chains owned by the same company. In 2011 it was sandwich restaurants. In 2012 it was pizza restaurants. In both cases, the work involved upgrading POS software on 4-6 terminals in each location, using downloaded instructions and flash drives for each terminal, previously shipped to each site. There was a secondary element of cleaning vents and keeping an eye out for and reporting hardware problems, most notably overheating from one or both cooling fans having failed. Overheating could slow the installation. I discovered that canned air could be used to keep a system cool enough to get through a sluggish update more quickly.

This also involved working with helpdesk and management at the restaurant company, making sure additional remote updates and tweaks were done, the system was sufficiently available by the time the stores opened, and everything tested out OK. The experience was a nice change from FedEx, and I appreciated having regional managers wishing I could do all of their stores.

I would take other work from SmartSource, if it fit my schedule, but it generally overlaps. I can’t replace FedEx with something that transient.

Posted in 2011, 2012, Experience, Job Hunting, Resume | Leave a comment

FedEx Ground

I started at FedEx five years ago, as a seasonal employee, and was then retained after the holdays because I was reliable. That’s the biggest thing they look for when deciding who to keep, if there are openings.

Initially I unloaded trailers. Then I helped distribute incompatibles, ICs for short, which are packages that are too large, heavy or hazardous to travel the main conveyor system. After a while, I became the primary person for handling ICs, unloading less of the time, and helped with wrap up. That’s when packages that went to the wrong line are brought to the right place, “smalls” are distributed, packages that needed attention from QA are distributed, and packages that belong to another terminal go to QA to be processed. I did a stint stacking home delivery packages, and sometimes helped with that when others had the position and were busy. I covered a little in the sort tower, but the less said about that the better, except when I teamed up with one of the other guys, we were the perfect team.

That guy ended up in our Nantucket area, at the end of one of the lines. On the other lines, the same area would have been home delivery. Nantucket is distinct from the rest of the package handling, in that the packages go onto pallets, then onto a trailer that is picked up by a contractor, taken on the ferry to the island, and dropped at a mini-teminal there. He hated it. Because he hated it, he wasn’t good at it. The management was about ready to get rid of him when I clued them in to what was going on.

As a result of that, I did Nantucket for a week, then one of my colleagues did it for the following week, when I would not be available. Afterward, I was willing to take it for the summer, because my wife’s schedule was changing to allow that, but once summer was over, I would have to leave earlier. As it stood then, whoever did Nantucket was usually the last non-management person to leave. My colleague ended up with the assignment, but it is so heavy in the late spring through summer, I generally spent half or more of the shift helping her and organizing the load to fit on the truck.

It was during that summer that I came up with the idea of having the unloaders deliver ICs to an area on the dock near the bay door where we loaded the truck, across the building from where we built pallets. What was happening was people bringing ICs to our corner of the building, from which we would turn around and bring them back almost to the same place later on. Those packages would go between or on top of the pallets of regular packages, or in the remaining space at the rear of the trailer. It crowded things, made more work, and made injuries or damages more likely. Instead, the person scanning Nantucket packages would bring the scanner to the packages before they were loaded.

You could compare it to a different subroutine to make things more efficient. One thing that always fascinated me was the degree to which FedEx reminded me of a computer program given physical manifestation. It’s input going into a big sort routine. Packages sort to one of the belts that have vans along them. On each belt, packages are sorted into the vans. Runbacks involve error handling routines.

After that summer when I helped with Nantucket, we started getting a lot of inbound packages for a new customer that would become our largest. Their outbound packages went onto trailers right at their warehouse, then taken straight to our regional hub. Returns and other packages came through the terminal. A couple times each year, their stores would ship seasonal returns back to the distribution center. That could mean anywhere from a few percent to 100% added to our volume each day for a few weeks. Those packages didn’t go on vans. They went on pallets to go onto trailers to go to the customer.

I helped figure out the fact that we had to do them in the Nantucket area, and could not split them directly into 53′ trailers where people would scan, stack, stretch-wrap, and move the pallets into place. I figured out how best to stack them and how to organize things, with input from other people over the course of time to refine it.

After that started, Nantucket changed hands, then promptly changed hands again, to me. With the promise I could leave when I needed, since they knew I couldn’t stay late as I’d done in the summer. Less of an issue in the off-peak time, but still. That involved being the person responsible for the normal incoming volume for that largest customer, as well as for everything going to Nantucket. Plus for catching runbacks, making sure nothing got erroneously sent to the island, which creates an abnormally long delay in delivery, and helping with supplemental home delivery routes handled in that area during the Christmas season.

When we peak, I do a certain amount of inherent training and supervising of people, and organizing of the work.

I also work more than some people there with QA, as far as watching for and catching packages that need to be intercepted for various reasons. Generally there is a customer service flag that the new scanner brings to my attention automatically. Sometimes there are packages not actually flagged, so I have to watch for them. That’s besides the normal keeping an eye out for damages, PO boxes, and packages that don’t belong in our terminal and need to be processed outbound to the hub.

Last but not least, for nearly four years I have been on the safety committee. Originally this was the purview of a part-time manager, who in turn reported to the terminal manager. For two years or so we have worked directly with the terminal manager, which added an operations angle not strictly connected to safety, as well as clearer and more direct feedback on safety issues. During that time, we went a record 380 days injury-free, and have otherwise had a relatively limited number of injuries. Those of us on the safety committee do observations of other employees, giving them feedback on what they are doing safely or could improve. Each month, we recognize one individual who works consistently safely.

It is no secret that I love this job, this terminal, and the people there. I have worked with amazing people in a tech environment, many of whom I would gladly hire. The same is true of my experience at FedEx, despite it being an entirely different type of job and environment. The trouble is, the hours, the part time nature of it, and the fact that as well paid as it is for part time, it is not close to what I could and should make for other types of work. It was what it needed to be, for the time necessary, but it is time to move on. Worst case, it is time to supplement it with something well enough paid to work for me.

I have often wished I had worked the FedEx job, or one just like it, while I was with XTreme Computing “full time.” I was on call, and it wasn’t “full time” in the normal sense. There were few times I couldn’t have avoided doing work for XTreme between 2:00 and 8:00 AM. I could have worked the part time job, which would have paid my rent and some at the time, padding and supplementing unpredictability, then more or less gone straight to the office, where, in a pinch, I could nap if needed and if work allowed. Yet I still would be right there, available. It would have helped keep me in shape. I’ll miss that about the job.

As I noted, I was advised not to leave an employment gap on my resume, and even without the odd bits of self-employment, this does that. It just isn’t in “the field.” It’s not without merit, though. I used my ability to be accurate, reliability, organizing skill, training, a bit of supervising, and probably some I am missing.

Posted in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, Jobs, Programming, Resume, Skills | Leave a comment

Welcome to Help

This is one of those posts where I am reviewing my work experience, chewing on it and describing it in some detail, to give myself material to distill down to a better employment section that incorporates “skills.” There may be more preamble/backstory to this one than any other, despite its relative insignificance beyond continuity.

I knew XTreme Computing wouldn’t be forever, for various reasons. I was not making enough catering primarily to our one big client, yet I was not in a position to take on anything particularly demanding, given the contingent demands of being on-call at all times to the big client, needing to respond fairly promptly, and potentially being engaged for many hours at a stretch , even many hours on multiple days, when something significant came up. I wanted something of my own, distinct from the business that included de jure if seldom de facto partners. Loyal to a fault, I was not yet ready to walk away for a job, and was uncertain I wanted that rather than continued self-employment. On the other hand, I was ambivalent about continuing to be nothing but self-employed.

I mark the start as 2006, because that year I bought a Blackberry in service both of my business idea, and in support of the existing clients, as there was much e-mail support involved. However, by 2005 I had it in mind. Ultimately the name I settled on was “Welcome to Help,” which had potential beyond mere tech support, and had helpful, friendly connotations. The idea was to do computer support and repair for home users, a market XTreme did not serve, and vary small businesses. The idea was interstitial work of short duration to fit with my availability to the large client, and any other relatively large clients we had or might get.

I envisioned having a portable device, something like a tablet or small laptop, that would be online from anywhere, completely mobile. I imagined finishing with one small client, checking the device, being able to go right to another client if there was a request, or being able to answer e-mail from the large client on the road. I imagined being able to go online to research a problem from anywhere, even in the presence of a dead computer in someone’s home. Nimble, responsive, portable, it seemed great. Trouble was, a Blackberry was the closest affordable thing I could get at the time I pulled the trigger on the idea.

Alas, I am not a salesman, and having mixed feelings about the idea didn’t help. I was able to be convincing with existing XTreme prospects a couple times, but drumming up work enthusiastically and copiously? Not so much.

That said, I have done odds and ends of work that could be called by the name of that business, or could be called “freelance work.” I am not sure whether the first of it happened in 2006, but from 2007 through this year, I have done bits of tech work. That includes keeping the web site of XTreme’s largest client updated, but as me, since there is no more XTreme Computing. That means in one way or another I have worked with that law firm every year from 1998 through 2013. Hadn’t thought about it that way.

In 2008, possibly starting in 2007, I signed up for the OnForce marketplace, garnering some projects through that. On my existing resume, I listed each of those as an item under the freelance work.

That was ultimately affected by personal constraints that squelched my ability to offer responsive, dynamic services more generally. I became the stay-at-home spouse. Sufficiently remunerative traditional employment might have allowed us both to work, or might have encouraged my wife to trade places. However, to accept work for an hour or a day and try to arrange babysitting, that was interesting. At the time, employment was not forthcoming. The economy was crashing, but hey, perhaps my resume needed work, and perhaps I needed to look for different types of work and ensure I had a narrative that made “going out of business” seem less unreasonable than it did to some. But that’s another post, perhaps, if I try reviewing and analyzing my past interview performance and problems.

The sad thing about this particular entry in employment is I can’t discern much by way of skills from describing it. I’ll do so, then try.

As mentioned, I keep a law firm web site updated. I have also worked with WordPress, MySQL, and making shopping cart code work.

I upgraded the card reader at each POS terminal of a warehouse club store. This included troubleshooting a terminal that turned out to be dead for purposes of using the new card reader. This included working with a reluctant store manager, a scheduling error, and exacting remote coordination and support in Arkansas.

I upgraded RAM on machines at a car dealership.

I setup a computer, scanner and label printer at an insurance company.

I cleaned up various malware or sped up bogged down computers.

I got wifi to work on an iPad, despite having never laid hands on one before. Figured out a longstanding DVD player problem for the same person.

Recovered photos from a dead laptop hard drive by accessing it successfully from a Linux CD.

I may be forgetting some specifics. It usually comes down to cleanups, malware, or something like evaluating a salvaged laptop.

I never know what exactly I will run into, but I have seen so much, it’s not difficult to figure things out. That’s the main thing. Adaptability, personability, communication skills, resourcefulness. I’m great at communicating the technical to those who are non-technical, and, in other roles, determining the needs of the non-technical and communicating them to those who are technical.

It was worth thinking about this “job” as part of the process, for completeness, but the description will be modest and unlikely to change from what I wrote already, outside of this post.

Posted in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, Clients, Experience, Jobs, Self-employment | Leave a comment

So Here’s The Deal

A former manager who is VP of a company, and whose wife is a recruiter, perused my current resume and advised me that most recruiters would not even consider it. Why? Because it has “employment gaps.” Except it doesn’t. It’s a matter of presentation. I have technical/relevant employment on top, so the most recent thing is 2011-2012, and the most recent thing before that ends in 2008.

However, following a skills section, there is a “recently” section that shows my current job at FedEx, started in 2008, and lists freelance work that is technical and relevant… and through this year.

So much for emphasizing the technical part! I downplayed FedEx because it’s not like the others, no matter how much I love the place. I hesitated to put the freelance stuff front and center because I perceive it as the kind of thing one might do exactly because of gaps. The proverbial “consultant” thing. But real, if modest.

On top of all this, I have fretted about my skills section, up to and including whether there even should be a skills section. If I describe the work just so, wouldn’t most of the skills come through there? Oh, some might need to be stated or recapped, but that’s brief, compared to what I’d built, extrapolating from early resumes when it seemed important to emphasize computer skills and that I had experienced certain software. Most notably, then, was the presumed requirement to know Lotus 1-2-3 to be taken seriously for accounting work. Building that section landed me instead in technical support. Welcome, if unexpected. It was a career option not on my radar whatsoever then. I can’t help thinking that there are options now that are not on my radar, but that a clever reader of my resume might invite me to consider. Yet things seem so… mechanized… these days, I would be surprised. Indeed, I could be forgiven for writing at least one version of my resume specifically for algorithmic consumption.

So yeah, skills probably should no longer consist primarily, for me at least, of a series of lists of software and technologies that I have used or supported. Reviewing that section, I was struck by the degree to which my overwhelming emphasis was on depth of experience. Hey look, I have been a this forever! That might not be what a reader takes away, but instead it may be “so what if you know all this obsolete stuff.” But… but… I can extrapolate! The depth and extent of my experience makes me almost intuitive! Nope, not what our machine gatekeepers will parse from it, nor what humans might clearly see, potentially a double fail.

At the same time, I have long worried my work experience gets short shrift. XTreme Computing was many years, various projects and clients, plus running things overall, yet it’s a few terse lines. Well written, if I do say so, evocative, perhaps, but far from complete. So I set out to rewrite all that. I am finding it difficult to focus in the context of Word and the existing material staring me in the face. It pays to start verbose and edit down. It might be worth having a context where I can muse about each thing.

Thus I am going to write a series of posts, at the risk of being too detailed or open. This is merely the post to introduce those, explaining what I am doing and why, and incidentally getting the mood in place for myself. Here goes…

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The World Has Changed, And Yet…

Apparently there are still cover letters, sometimes.

Flashback. The last time I looked for work before 2007-2008, then 2013, was in 1994, and especially in 1992. After some 1200 resumes tendered during a year of unemployment, in early 1993 I started with a company that had not been one of the ones I’d targeted. Instead, they received my resume from a company I’d impressed, but which ultimately chose not to create the entirely new position my resume inspired them to consider creating for me. Following that job, I sent a total of ten resumes and got a job out of the first three. Big change.

Every one of those resumes, sent by postal mail, mostly unsolicited, required a cover letter. I am write enough that it may as well be my vocation, yet I freeze when it comes to a cover letter. More so even than my agony over my own resume, for all I have created resumes for others. Most of them were identical, generic, probably saying little more than my resume was enclosed and here’s what kind of work I sought. Necessary, since I sent them unsolicited.

Flash forward. The world has changed. Computing power and connectivity beyond my wildest dreams. In 1992, remember, I transitioned from a 286 to a 386, learning how to build a PC in the process, cannibalizing parts from my original Packard-Bell. In 1992 or early 1993, I got my first modem and spent my first time on a BBS. In 1993, I had my first e-mail address, via said BBS, run by a friend. The modem and PC proved critical for that first tech support job, where I could use PC Anywhere to connect remotely to customer systems while doing off-hours support from home. Now a smartphone blows away that computing power and connectivity. The Internet is mature. Much of the tech support that was once necessary is moot, since everyone knows at least the basics, most know more, and hardware is more disposable, so needs less repair and more replacement.

In the process of that maturation, job hunting went online. You don’t mail resumes. Or perhaps you do, if you want to baffle people, or make them wonder about you. You apply online. You upload a resume. Maybe you e-mail a resume, and in that case a cover letter makes sense shades of the old days, no matter how invited the submitted resume may be. But when you are uploading as part of an online application for a specific position? That’s as targeted and specific as it gets. They know which job you seek. They have all your other information.

Nonetheless, I am encountering the call for cover letters, even in that context. This means it’s time to compose one. At least for a specific job, but perhaps that will do as a basis for others.

While I’m on the topic of online applications, many of them are flawed. Create an account with you so I can apply? Upload a resume and then also fill out all the information again? (Clarify and expand is one thing…) Answer what amount to interview questions? (I know, the better to screen you with.) Sites that hang. Sites that don’t remember you signed up, so you have to do it again. Sites with job search engines that simply don’t work.

Sometimes I miss simply identifying companies that might be prospects and mailing them resumes. Even when it means a cover letter each and every time.

Posted in 1992, 1993, 1994, 2007, 2008, 2013, Interviews, Job Hunting, Resume | Leave a comment