Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Free HR Advice: Caller ID Works Both Ways

Caller ID is a great thing.  No longer do teenage girls pick up their phone, thinking it is their boyfriend and get their mom instead.   No longer do telemarketers interrupt the unsuspecting at dinner time. 
Use this power for good in your job search.   And realize that recruiters use it too.  

We've already stressed the importance of listening to your voice mail.   If you get a call from an unknown number that could belong to your future employer, decide whether you are ready to talk now, or if it would be better to wait.   If you are at Chucky Cheese with your screaming nephews, wait.   If you are checking out at the grocery store, wait.  If you are at your current job and on the clock, wait.

When you answer a call from an unknown number it is your chance to use the manners your parents instilled in you.   Say something something polite.   Turn down background music.   And, at least in my case, don't talk so fast!

The biggest caller ID faux pas is to call back an unknown number and say, "Uh, this is ______ ...I got a call from this number." Especially if they left a message.

This may be a little known fact, but employers too have caller ID.    So if you keep calling and calling,  we know it's you.  And your stalker ways are annoying.   And we might not call back.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Memory Lane: New Orleans Mission Trip

This past Sunday at church, the minute for mission was about One Great Hour of Sharing.  One of the organizations that this special offering, held at Easter-time, supports is Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.    That immediately brought to mind a mission trip that our young adults group went on in March 2008 (back when we still were young adults....now there are younger adults, and we have a new name).  Two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, and there was still a need for relief volunteers.    I think this trip was the first time that I had done national disaster relief.    This summer, when I go to Joplin, MO on the high school mission trip, will probably be my second time.    That trip was the first and only time I've been to Louisiana. 

I pulled out my travel journal from this trip.   I don't know that I've looked at it in the four years since I went on this trip.  I didn't write as much as I sometime do.  I'm going to blame it on the heat, humidity and manual labor.   Some of the memories:
  •   Sleeping in pods
  •   Houses marked with an X
  •   Girl scouts bringing us cookies in the volunteer village
  •   Meeting a volunteer named Seth who also grew up in Janesville, WI!
  •   Moving 40 donated doctor's exam tables
  •   Drinking "slurpees" in the French Quarter
  •   Dinner at the ACME Oyster House
  •   Coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde
  •   Being a "blue shirt"
  •   Learning that gumbo represents 7 different cultures
  •   Going on a disaster tour
  •   Wielding a crow bar like I was on Extreme Makeover Home Edition
  •   Stuffed sweet potato french toast (if only I had the recipe!!!)
To learn about One Great Hour of Sharing, check out this video

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Women Who Drink Coffee at 10am on Tuesdays

It's important to have goals, dreams and aspirations.    I want to visit all the National Parks.   I want to continue getting into better shape.   I want to go out to breakfast more often.   I feel that being an international ice cream taster would be the perfect job.    But recently, something else has come to mind...

I was driving my sister to work, and on one particular street she told me that when she usually drives down (around 8:45am or so) there are always people jogging with their strollers, retirees meandering, and ladies walking and drinking coffee.   I was jealous.  I would like to be one of the "women who drink coffee at 10am on Tuesdays."  

It's a case of the grass being greener on the other side.  Now that I have a structured Monday-Friday career, I'm envious of those who can sit out on the patio at Dazbog or Stella's and drink coffee in comfortable clothes in the middle of the day.   Ten years ago, I was that person.   I was a restaurant manager with week days off.  On my "weekend" (Tuesday, for example) I would sleep in until noon on my days off and then sit in the sun by the shore of Lake Tahoe and read.   I would drive down Mt. Rose highway into Reno to run errands.    I would sip a frappucino at Starbucks.   Now I go into the coffee shop at work, maybe once a week as a treat, wearing my suit, and take a latte back to my office.   It's not quite the same.  

With focus and creativity maybe someday I can be a little more location independent.  Even if it was just one day a week.   Working on my laptop.  Sipping coffee.   On a Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Life in the Fly Over States

I love country music.  I am not ashamed.   I enjoy the upbeat songs about life.   I don't know that I'm living the country music lifestyle (small towns, bonfires and fishing) any more than I'm living the R&B lifestyle (pimpin' all over the world and makin' it rain), but I certainly relate better and I don't have to worry about downloading the "clean" version.

A recent song by Jason Aldean, "Fly Over States," got me thinking.   I've spent most of my life living in places that people fly over, or drive through, on their way to someplace else.   Even Colorado, which I love and consider the best place to live, and has a lot to offer, is still middle America.  Fly over on your way east or west.  Look at the mountains through your plane window en route to Boston or San Francisco.   Long haul truckers and road trippers alike drive through on I-70.

I've lived in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Wyoming, Nevada and Colorado.  All have something to offer.  All have unique features, activities and food.   I guess all of them could be considered fly over states.  Maybe I have more in common with the country music lifestyle than I thought.   

What's your favorite fly over state?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Free HR Advice: What NOT to Talk About

As you interview you should know there is basically a list called "Thou Shalt Not Ask These Questions."   Through companies AA plans, non-discrimination policies and more,  there are questions about protected categories that should not come up in your interview.  

Questions about age:   Other than making sure that you meet a minimum requirement or legal obligation, it shouldn't come up.   You're applying to be a bartender?  Don't be surprised if the application or interviewer asks if you're at least 21.
Questions about race and national origin:  There should be no discussion about race in an interview.  Employers can ask if you have the legal right to work in the US.   Asking where you were born or about your accent?  Not ok.   Questions about whether you speak other languages can be ok based on the job description or requirements.

Questions about pregnancy, health or disability:  Your interviewer should only be asking job related questions.   This job requires standing for 6-8 hours per day.   This position requires carrying  50lbs on a consistent basis.  Can you meet the requirements of the job?

Questions about marital status and family:  Don't go there.  Once you are an employee of the company, bond with your co-workers all you want about your kids and their antics.   The interviewer can ask whether you can work the scheduled shift.   The interviewer can ask if you are able to travel for business.   Your family situation could impact your answers, but it might not.    All the hiring manager wants to know is if you can meet the expectations for the job. 

Questions about religion:  Unless you are applying for a position at a religious organization where they are specifically looking for someone with specific beliefs (and even then they may not be able to go that far), religion shouldn't come up in an interview.   Interviewers may ask if you're available to work certain days/times (ie in retail, hospitals, emergency services, restaurants and hotels - employees are working all days of the week and you may need to have open availability).    Asking "Are you available to work weekends?" is a reasonable question.   Your answer may have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the NFL.  

Advice for the job seeker:  Just as the recruiter shouldn't be asking you about these areas during an interview, you shouldn't be volunteering information either.   Talking about your age, kids, marriage, divorce, financial problems, health concerns, religious practices and other taboo subjects are not showcasing your skills, experience and enthusiasm for the position.   After you've been hired, your employer will probably ask you to self identify your race, veteran status, disability status, etc for reporting purposes.    Note, I said, after you've been hired - not while you're in the interview stage.

Employers and applicants are looking for the same thing.  The most qualified candidate (hopefully that's you) filling the position. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Memory Lane: Sumidero Canyon, Mexico

In 2009 I had an opportunity to go on a Transformation Trip to Chiapas, Mexico with Healing Waters.  One of our activities was going on a power boat trip through Sumidero Canyon.   It's a popular activity with Mexican tourists.  Needless to say, I was the only gringa on the boat. 

To read more about this trip click Traveler Abroad and scroll down to Mexico 2009

Thursday, March 15, 2012

National Parking: My Other Passport

It's very obvious that I love to travel and that I think having a passport is essential.  

Earlier this week I was taking my car in to get some repairs and I was taking the car keys off my key chain.   For the first time in over 12 years, I took off my Yellowstone National Park key chain.   It has been carried around with my keys ever since the summer of 2000 when I worked in the park.  

That got me to thinking about my other passport.  Yes friends, I have a gift shop wonder, my Passport to Your National Parks.  I got my passport in 1994.   We were on a family road trip vacation into Missouri and Arkansas.   We visited Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in Republic, MO.   Mom bought me the passport in the bookstore.    I still have it today.   When I visit a new national park, I try to stop in the visitor's center and get a new stamp.     I was very dedicated for a while, but in the past few years, other than annual visits to Rocky Mountain National Park, I haven't been giving the park system it's due.    I've been cheating on my National Parks passport with my US passport.   

I'm hoping that this is the year that I make the change.   I have explored quite a few of our National Parks, but I have a ways to go.  There are other places here in Colorado that I still need to go to.   Admittedly, I already have all my vacation time between now and September already allocated, but I'm thinking that right around September 19, when I earn more days, I should take myself out and go National Parking again.

What's your favorite national park?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Happy Passport Day in the USA

Photo Credit:  travel.state.gov

If I was going to create my own Hallmark Holiday, this would be it.   You know how you stroll through the greeting card section and you see cards for random occasions where you wouldn't think to buy a card?   I think we add Passport Day to that list.  If I knew a friend who was getting their passport for the first time, I would certainly get them a card.   Or a guidebook to their first international destination.    I was reading on Everything Everywhere How Amy Got Her Passport and learned that today was Passport Day in the USA.    My first thought was to take a picture with my passport to celebrate.   My sister's first thought was "OMG we're leaving the country in less than a month, Where is my passport?"   I also learned about the Passport Party Project.    That's my kind of party.   The PPP is going around the country giving under served girls ages 11-15 their first US passport.     The party will even come to Denver this summer on June 13.   Awesome.

All I can say on this sunny Saturday is "Yay Travel!"    

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Year Ago Today: Arusha, Tanzania

I've written about my love of travel journaling before.  My journal helps me remember my trips in much more depth than just a photo album or a vague recollection that "I was in Africa last year."   

For instance, the quote that was on the delicious pizza snack on our KLM flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, "The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live." -Flora Whitemore-

March 6 was my first full day in Africa....this time.   I've been blessed in enjoying three trips to Africa.  Each one different.  Each one amazing.  Each one changing my view. 

A few pictures from day 1....

Arusha Coffee Lodge

Our visit to Amka Afrika school.   We were the first group of tourists to visit this school that was built by our guides at Bushdrifters, to provide education in an under served area in Babati.   It's amazing what has happened in a year's time:  a non-profit has been created, a container ship of donated school supplies has (finally) arrived, our family friend Ann has spent months there helping to work with the teachers...and to be a part of the community.     In the last week or so, a second tour group had a chance to visit Amka.   It probably looks like a whole new school!    To learn more please visit www.amkaafrika.org.  

Our fabulous accommodations at Gibb's Farm

Monday, March 5, 2012

Keystone Weekend

There are lots of reasons to live in Colorado.  The mountains, unsurprisingly, top that list for most people.  Another favorite reason include the active lifestyle.   Personally, I'm also a big fan of DIA.   Even though it feels like you're driving to Kansas when you go to the airport, you can fly non-stop to almost anywhere in the US. 

This past weekend our Mom and a friend came out for a weekend of fun at altitude.  Added bonus?  Didn't have to have the house "company clean." We met them at the airport, battled a little Friday evening traffic and headed west.   We like each other's company on a normal day, but it's also fun because we are all excited about out upcoming trip to Greece.

First stop was dinner in Idaho Springs at BeauJo's Pizza, home of Colorado Style pizza.  We share the honey cheese bread along with two small pizzas.   The signature BJ crust is thick and they give you honey for dipping.  On arrival at our hotel in Silverthorne, we proceeded directly to the hot tub.  Hot give are a staple of any Colorado mountain adventure.

I love Keystone.  It could be the free parking, the proximity to Denver, or the wide open runs.   In any case it was our resort of choice for Saturday adventures.  Mom only skis once a year, so we take it easy and have a good time.   The non-skiers opted for a "black diamond" snow shoe experience.   We all met up in the afternoon for $3 Irish Coffees at Inxpot in the River Run Village, and then took the gondola up to the summit for some pictures before heading back to the hotel for hot tub o'clock. 

The evening wrapped up at Red Mountain Grill....possibly home to the coolest light fixtures to grace your typical bar and grill.   Sunday mornings often have a slow start and this was no exception.  Breakfast, packing and then they dropped me at Keystone for more downhill before heading to the Nordic Center for some cross-country action.   Early afternoon while I'm enjoying Irish Coffee, again, I get a text that they have fallen off the map and are working their way back.   They say that the journey is the destination....


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