Local map updates

Four Indiana mapping/geological links to share today:

  1. The Indiana Geological Survey has a wealth of information and maps on their Indiana Geology Home Page.
  2. The Indiana Department of Transportation maintains traffic count maps for major roadways throughout the state. Since these maps always show the average daily traffic count, they also published a guide of adjustment factors that show how to adjust the average count to account for seasonal and daily variation. 
  3. The Indiana Trails Study reports on citizens’ usage patterns of multi-use trails. 
  4. I’m really not a fan of the lousy ArcIMS web interface, but IndianaMap has some interesting layers to explore, including demographics and environmental interest.

Maybe I just don’t get this whole internet thing

Does this confuse the living daylights out of anyone else besides me? I’m having trouble placing my finger on what I find so disturbing about this.

Lessons learned in a job search

There are some things in life we need to be good at, but we don’t want to have to get a lot of practice doing them. Searching for a job is one of them. Mass layoffs are a reality these days, and as a result, I recently found myself doing just that. I learned a few painful lessons that I would like to share in case anyone else can learn from them too. 

Prove that you are valuable. Be sure your role is justified with your company’s business plan. Make sure that you are doing something that contributes to its reason for existence. If you aren’t, then find a way to steer your role in a direction that makes you more valuable. No need to be a hot-shot, but you don’t want to be part of the easiest cuts to make. Nor do you want to be a Tom Symkowski.

Identify your accomplishments and responsibilities. If you’re not good about tooting your own horn, that’s fine, but you still need to keep tabs on what you have done. Be able to describe the details of your contributions. Substantiate them up with numbers if you can. If things go well, you will need to talk about them at your annual review, and if things go poorly, you will need the elaboration for your resume. I used to write a short summary at the end of every month to help me with this, but I fell behind in that practice. I don’t plan to fall behind again. 

Stay in touch. Professional networking sites like LinkedIn are surprisingly useful. Of course, they are only as useful as the information you provide, so find out what former coworkers are up to these days. Don’t be afraid to explore the web of connections and see where they went. Reconnect with people. Get some ideas. You will probably find a number of people who are eager to help, and you may get some pleasant surprises. Expect to pay it forward, as well.

Be prepared, committed and optimistic. In today’s economy, it’s all the more likely that a mass layoff will hit. Be ready with some savings — advice varies on how much, but we could all stand to save more. If you have been keeping track of your accomplishments, updating your resume will be easier. If you have stayed in touch, your connections are more likely to turn up good leads. In uncertain times, it’s impossible to guess how long a search will take, so be patient, be persistent, and leave lots of doors open. Be willing to relocate if you are in a location that does not have a lot of prospects in your field (ancillary tip: make a habit of pretending to move every year. Declutter, and prioritize your home improvement projects accordingly).

Acknowledge that the situation stinks and that times are tough. You don’t have to be an obnoxious Pollyanna, but you do have to remain positive. It is difficult to be in the job market, and it becomes your new full time job. However, you have to balance it with an appropriate amount of rest and exercise, because searching for a job is one activity that you cannot afford to burn out on.

Respond to each act of assistance. Thank anyone who offers their help, especially if it is something little. In normal business communication, it’s not always appropriate to add to the email flurry with a one-liner thank you message, but this isn’t normal communication. You will get conflicting or perhaps unwanted advice, but you should still graciously accept it and give it the consideration it deserves. Just like with parenting advice!

Get lots of eyes on your resume. Get different perspectives from different kinds of people, including people who don’t understand what you do. If you have to explain something a lot, maybe it needs to be elaborated upon. You ultimately have to choose what advice to follow, but you should still get a lot of opinions. 

Formatting does not matter. It seems that people tend to obsess over how to format resumes. I agree that it is important, but the way it looks is definitely secondary to what it contains. Different professions warrant different approaches to resumes, and for technical professions, keywords seem to be paramount. Recruiters want you to share your resume in Word format specifically so they can undo all the painstaking formatting you performed by removing your personal details. In other words, they’re just going to mess it up and let some software scan for keywords to weed out irrelevant resumes. Again, specific skills, experience, and keywords will flag you for more personal attention, so load them in. Brevity is not a virtue when illustrating your diverse experience.

Once a hiring manager sees your resume, it must quickly show what you will be able to do for the employer on your first day, and it must also show what you are capable of. 

Recruiters. I do not have a lot of experience with recruiters, but I can share a couple things that I learned. First, they have specialties, and you need to ask and identify which ones will be able to get you the opportunities you need. Second, some troll sites like Monster and won’t bring much that you couldn’t find on your own. However, the right recruiter will have an “in” with the type of employer that does not want to publicly post openings. (Why would an employer not want to publicly post a position? Because it may be very close to their core business, and a posting might send up warning flags. Or, more commonly, the hiring manager may simply need to use someone to screen applicants because they just don’t have enough time to chase down the right person.)

Recruiters also will be able to offer advice on your resume, and give feedback on your interviewing skills.

Interviewing. Practice rattling off the details of your skills and accomplishments. Have a 15–30 second commercial of your professional specialty and your immediate goal. 

Have a good handshake. Nerds in cube farms don’t get enough practice with this, but there are still opportunities to work on it. Greeting vendors and manufacturer’s representatives are good chances to make sure you can look your interviewer in the eye and listen carefully to what they have to say. Save every business card that you are ever given. Write the date on it and what the person’s specialty is. Take down a note of a personal detail about what they say so you can ask about it at your next meeting. I’m not the best at this, but I do work on it. It’s tempting to try to cut the chatter and get to the point, but I have learned that the peripheral relationship is essential.

If you are interviewing someone new regarding a job, be ready to ask questions. It almost does not matter what you ask, just that you are asking something. Show an interest in learning more about the company, the position, how the rest of the process will work, anything. When you are asked a question, answer as directly as you can, trying to identify why the interviewer wants to know, so that you can anticipate the next question. The point of the whole process is to contribute something that benefits the company, so make it easy for the interviewer to see what that benefit could be. 

It is okay to disclose a weakness, because a bad match ultimately will be detrimental to all parties. Practice elaborating on your weakness by showing that you are aware of them and have taken steps to overcome them or take advantage of a growth opportunity. Your sincerity can be seen as an advantage.

I will have more to say as this process continues, and I will probably change my stance on some of what I have written. If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments form!

Mini-Marathon Training Series 5k

Saturday’s 5k was a good race, but there was a lot of melting ice near the start/finish line, and lots of messy puddles along the course. Flow was generally good because 2 traffic lanes were blocked rather than only one, as in previous years. My tendency after a hiatus from racing is to go out too fast because it feels so good to run. Fortunately I was more disciplined this time, because this was not the race to overdo it, so I tried to go easy and stay safe.

There was even a little bit of coverage on the local news featuring Indiana First Lady Cheri Daniels.

View Larger Map

Date 2008-02-07
Distance 5 km
Time 21:21
Pace 6:50/mi
Results 13 in age group; 65/1389 overall (official results)
Conditions 45°F, windy, melting ice

A subdued celebration of better times

Chimi and I shared a muy delicioso carnitas chimi at the chimichanga store today for a happy little celebration, mindful of the challenges that so many are facing in our economy. Our prayers continue for our neighbors beset by tough times.


When I started using the Internet

Depending on your age and geek quotient, this prompt could turn into quite a competition. I first started using the internet in 1993 as a student at LBJ High School Science Academy. There was a rickety old clone in the corner of one of the labs that ran Slackware Linux. I used it to email my buddy, who was overseas for a semester with his family. We didn’t have a domain name at LBJ, so my email address had an IP after the @. I still remember that IP address to this day. There wasn’t much to the web at the time; email, newsgroups, FTP, and Gopher were king! My favorite email client was pine.