Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Curing Mondays, aka The Importance of Laughing at Yourself

Just a short, quick story for you...

This morning I had a serious case of the Mondays. Okay, technically it’s a Tuesday, but after a three-day weekend my first morning back at work left me feeling lethargic and depressed. (And hungry – I need to remember to eat some breakfast!)

Needless to say, I needed coffee. And not just any coffee, because let’s face it, I still can’t drink straight black coffee. No, I needed my own special blend of black drip, LOTS of half-n-half, and half a packet of hot chocolate. WHAM BAM, instant mocha.

The coffee machine is on the fourth floor. I work on the sixth floor. Normally after creating my heaven-in-a-cup, I take the elevator back to my lonely little cubicle. Not today. Today, my friend and I took the stairs.

Bad idea.

I knew it was a bad idea when someone jostled me, and a small wave of mocha crested over the cup and onto my hand. “Shoot,” I said, “I’m already spilling.” I’m kind-of clumsy that way.

“Oh,” my friend said, “maybe we should have taken the eleva – ”

And that’s when I tripped.

And spilled my entire mocha.

Onto myself. And my friend. And the floor. But mostly myself.

In front of multiple witnesses.

Oddly, this embarrassing little incident cured my case of the Mondays. Sometimes, ya just gotta laugh at yourself. I mean, what else are you gonna do when you’ve stained your favorite pair of pants and are clutching a roll of paper towels hastily cleaning up your former dream-in-a-cup whilst franticly apologizing to your friend and the witnesses? Sorry you had to see that, guys!

In other news, I got a request for a job interview. Huzzah!

Editor's Note: Just discovered I also spilled mocha onto my hair. Hair long enough to slosh mocha on = hair needing haircut.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

411 Awesome St, Big City America

I feel that after nearly 8 months of interning, job hunting, interviewing, and generally freaking out about what to do with my life, I've become well-versed enough in this process to offer a bit of unsolicited advice. So here goes.

Location, location, location.
When applying for jobs, think about your address. This might seem like the most basic and simple item to add to a resume – duh, goes right with your email and your phone number – but the address is actually a tricksy little devil. Because if you want a job in a particular city, it helps if your resume shows that you live in that city.

This is true for several reasons.

Firstly, potential employers want accessibility. They want the freedom to think, 'Hey, I like this candidate. I really want to interview her next week.' And then they want to to actually interview her next week. They don't want to think, 'Hey, I like this candidate, I really want to interview her...oh wait she lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I'm in Chicago. Phone interviews will only go so far. Next.'

Even worse: a potential employer in, say, Grand Rapids, MI, likes a particular candidate who he knows attends a nearby college, only to discover that the candidate's resume lists her as living in, let's say, Montana, but only because she's currently studying abroad in, oh I dunno, Scotland.

Yeah. If employers aren't too crazy about phone interviews, then I'm sure Skype interviews will just really dazzle them.  All that newfangled technology and stuff.

This brings me to my second point.

Phone interviews will only go so far.
Yes, phone (and occasionally Skype) interviews are often a crucial step along the yay-I-finally-have-something-that-will-get-me-off-the-couch road.  However, rarely will someone hire you based solely on a phone interview. If that happened for you, then congratulations – you must have really blown them away! (Good job, Sis and Laynsy!)

Fact of the matter is, though, most employers prefer in-person interviews in addition to those phone interviews. And some employers are pretty picky about this. Even if you have the qualifications and the zeal and drive and a completely stable Scottish Internet connection, some employers will simply refuse to hire you unless you can meet in person.

Which means, it would help if your resume shows that you live in reasonable proximity to the job you want.

This brings me back to my first point, which bears re-emphasizing:

Why should an employer in DC hire someone from Montana when they have reams of other outstanding resumes whose owners all live closer?

Or, as my boss put it, "In this economy, everyone's looking for jobs. I might as well give this one to someone here who needs it. Then I can actually meet the person and make an appropriate determination."

Fair? Maybe not. That's life? Yes, get used to it.

Ah, I see that questioning expression on your face. You've discovered a flaw in my advice  "Aftan," you say, "I want this job in Chicago, but there's the slight problem that I don't actually live in Chicago. I live in Tulsa, OK."

My first response: Why do you live in Tulsa. Why.

My second response: Allow me to introduce you to...THE LOOPHOLE. (Imagine this word with little swirlies and sparkles and glitter around it, and maybe flashing in different rotating colors and stuff.)

Here's the loophole.  Find a friend who lives in that city. (This would be an opportune time to use your network.) With the friend's permission, use his or her address as yours. BAM. Problem solved. I've farmed my DC address (411 Awesome St, in case you were wondering) out to at least half a dozen people so far.

[You must be nice to your address farmer. What if a potential job sends us some mail for you? We like flowers and dark chocolate. Wink wink.]

Now, the potential problem here is what to do once your new (and very fake) address DOES grant you an interview. In that case, you must make a decision. Will you continue the ruse, bite the bullet and fly (or drive a loooong time) to the interview? Live on a couch or a floor with a friend or crash in a hostel for a few days while you wrap up the process? Or will you decline, decide that you just can't make it to the interview?

It's completely your decision. But it's a high-risk-high-reward strategy, and I think it's worth it.

Some might say it's also like your life becomes a giant game of chicken, or Russian roulette. But hey, who said those weren't fun?

Editor's note: Address farmers also like yummy beer. :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Montana Again

I love going home.

I've been in DC for 6 months now (that long already?) but it's not yet a home. I guess these things take a while, right? Living on the East Coast, life is pretty different from what I grew up with. People wear peacoats and buy fancy umbrellas and use public transportation and just generally live at a more frenetic pace of life.

There's nothing inherently wrong with any of those things (especially the using-public-transportation thing -- it helps the environment!).  Nevertheless, sometimes all I want to see are people in their thick Carhartt coats, cowboy hat on, mud on their boots, flannel peeking out from the collar. Life back home is slower, relaxed, maybe even friendlier? Perhaps I just imagine it that way, because not too many people here in MT are concerned with unpaid internships or cutthroat career advancement or what Senator What's-His-Name did on the Hill today.

I miss the West, living in DC.

As such, I treasure up and relish any Western encounters I have in my East Coast city. When I check IDs at the liquor store (I didn't tell you? I did get that job...surprised me too), if someone hails from anywhere west of Minnesota or north of Wyoming, I have to mention my sister's college tenure in North Dakota or my trips to Washington state. I've even met a few other Montanans, and we all made plans to watch our biggest football game, UM vs. MSU. (Once someone came in with a thick Scottish brogue, and we shared a lovely few minutes abusing Aberdeen.)

I pass someone wearing cowboy boots, I secretly want to abandon my route and follow, like a creeper, because if he's wearing cowboy boots then he must be going somewhere interesting. Same with Carhartt. Seriously, boys: Carhartt is the way to this gal's lil country heart.

[Don't worry; I'm not a creeper and I've never actually followed someone.] 

I've trained my ears to listen for certain keywords -- "Montana", "horses", "West", "out West", "cowboys", "Rocky Mountains" -- and each time I hear them I relish them like candy. Too much candy all at once, too many buzzwords in a short time span, and I'm like a 4-year-old who found the bag of Sour Patch Kids.  I'll likely get all hyper and burst out, "Look at me! Look at me! I'm from the West, I know about mountains!! Let's talk about mountains, pretty please?! You people don't have them here!"

Don't worry, this doesn't happen very often. I'm usually an adult and can contain myself. Usually.

For example, on the second leg of my flight home for the holidays, everyone started talking about Northwest Montana, skiing, winter (real winter, people), and my hometown.

Instead of getting hyper (and, likely, obnoxious), I simply relaxed into my uncomfortable airplane chair, closed my eyes, and drank in the conversations around me.

Buzzwords never tasted so sweet.