Author Archives: Michelle Lentz

365: 2012/01/23 - fingers crossedAbout a month ago, I talked about my experiences with the hiring process at Company A. I still maintain that in the job search process, you have a responsibility to yourself to trust your own instincts. However, there also comes a time when you just need to pay the rent, instincts be damned. That’s how I ended up at Company B.

The same week I was offered the Company A job, I was also offered a position at Company B. Company B represented everything I could have done back in Cincinnati. It wasn’t a change; it wasn’t technology; it wasn’t in a great location; it didn’t have the focus I wanted. It did offer slightly more than my minimum salary requirement and it would suffice in the short-run. It even had a decent job title, so taking the job wouldn’t be setting me back in any way. But in no way was this the dream job I’d moved across the country to find.

Remember all those red flags I should have paid attention to with Company A? Even Company B raised some red flags. Unfortunately, I had to pay the rent. Company B interviewed me six times, including phone interviews, between early September and my start date in December. I was told different things by different people throughout the interviews. In particular, I kept probing into how were they using learning technology. The question was answered differently each time. I think it depended on how much the interviewer wanted to sell me on the position as to how they answered. In the end, I crossed my fingers.

Recently, I’ve had two job search experiences where the companies’ behavior bestowed little trust in me — the job seeker and potential recruit. However, trust works both ways. In both examples, I learned to always trust my own instincts. In today’s economy, many people think just landing a job is hard work — and I agree — it really is. However, I learned that it’s in your best interest to interview prospective employers as much as they interview you, and pay attention to the red flags along the way.

From Flickr user rvw via Creative Commons

Today I’ll talk about Company A — a six-year old B2B technology company with offices throughout the U.S., and a rosy financial outlook. When they offered me a senior role, I should have trusted myself a little more.

It was obvious from the first interview that the hiring manager, who would be remote from me but available during the work-day via video chat, was going to be a micro-manager. If you’ve ever experienced a micro-manager, then you know what I mean. A bit of neediness mixed with a bit too much curiosity about my life … you can just tell. After 8 years as a freelancer, I knew I wouldn’t respond well to her management style, but I so much wanted to work for a technology company that I ignored this first red flag.

After a series of videoconference interviews, the next round was in-person with a C-level executive. I was early and overheard another candidate’s interview in the other room, as the door was wide open. Inappropriate? Yes, but I looked at it as getting an edge on my competition. I learned that she was opposite of me in age and specialization. During my interview, the exec was distracted. He fiddled, checked his email, counted $100 bills he had in his desk, looked for his phone (which kept notifying him of new text messages), allowed people to barge into his office and ask for his input, and on top of it all, he drilled me on topics that seemed not-quite-right for the job. Overall, another red flag.

In the end, I was offered the position. But they offered $20K less than what I’d determined was my target and $10K less than what I really need. So I held firm and said “No – this is what I need to live on.” I should have said “No,” period. In the end, they almost came up to my minimum and I caved and said yes.

By the time the offer letter rolled in, the title had changed from Senior Instructional Designer to simply Instructional Designer. Titles make a difference for future jobs and salaries. I immediately said something to my manager. I never would have even applied for the job if it hadn’t been a Senior level position, so this was a big deal for me. “The committee will discuss it,” I was told.

Next, I was sent into the office to pick up a Mac I had been promised, which turned out to be a Windows PC. My manager told me, “Well, IT told me we had no Macs but they had PCs sitting around.” That was disappointing, but fine, until I called IT about something else and I learned getting a Mac wouldn’t have been an issue at all. Macs were also sitting around.

I know that the OS and hardware is a small thing, but look deeper. In reality, my new manager lied to me right off the bat. So at this point, before I even start the job, Company A has lied to me and pulled a title switch. Other red flags were raised before I even started the position. For instance, there was pushback on finding a resolution to the title issue; my upcoming speaking engagements were called into question; I sat through a two-hour meeting with my manager to talk about things we might do on my first day, and so on. I realized I couldn’t work for Company A.

My lessons learned from Company A were big:

  • An interview is my chance, as the job seeker, to interview the company and the manager. It’s quite within my rights to ask a question such as “How do you see your management style?” It’s easy for job seekers to forget that we’re interviewing the companies too.
  • Listen to your instincts. If the company or interviewers do something that raises red flags for you, either address it directly or research it. You may not want that job, whether it’s management style, location, culture, history or anything else. If the job really doesn’t seem right for you during the interview, there’s a reason. If you can, listen to your head, not your desperation.

Maybe the issues at Company A were more me than them. I’m willing to accept that. But I know that if I have that many personal red flags, it’s time to listen to myself and trust my own instincts.

While companies aren’t doing much to instill trust in the job seeker, we really need to trust ourselves too. There’s something to be said for being happy, and recognizing when that isn’t going to happen and how it may affect your work environment and your life. As job seekers, we have a responsibility to ourselves to interview the company as well as sell ourselves — and it’s worth remembering.

Michelle is a recent, wide-eyed transplant to the San Francisco Bay area. She still runs Write Technology, where she specializes in training, social learning strategy, and social marketing. Michelle is the executive editor of My Wine Education and recently started steps towards becoming a sommelier just for the hell of it. Michelle also blogs at Total Learner, where she intends to wax poetic on what should be and what isn’t within the field of learning. Oh, and she’s looking for a “real” job so feel free to reach out.

Note: Technology press releases should be sent to michelle[at]writetech[dot]net.

Velveteen RabbitI often compare new social tools to the Velveteen Rabbit story from when I was a kid. When does something stick around long enough and make enough of an impact to become a “real rabbit”? I’ve felt this way about social recruiting as I’ve struggled through my job search for the last six months.

TweetMyJobs.com apparently had the same question and spent some time doing some research. Their conclusion? Basically that by the end of 2012, social recruiting will be a “real rabbit” but it’s not quite there yet.

Some stats that struck me:

  • Currently, 92% of companies allocate less than 10% of their recruiting budget to social.
  • Only 16% of companies have a Twitter account dedicated to HR  / Recruiting.

So why, why why why, am I wasting so much time socially looking for a job? Because job boards sure as hell aren’t cutting it for me. Like the other thousands of candidates out there, I spend at least 50% of my time on job boards. But it feels so fruitless and it’s definitely hard on the psyche and the self-esteem. I want recruiting to go social.

The good news for me? TweetMyJobs.com estimates that 45% of companies will increase their social recruiting budgets in 2012.

I wonder by how much. Isn’t it time to become a real rabbit?

Here’s the 2 minute video chock full of information about the current state of social recruiting:

Is Social Recruiting Real?

 

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Michelle is a recent, wide-eyed transplant to the San Francisco Bay area. She still runs Write Technology, where she specializes in training, social learning strategy, and social marketing. Michelle is the executive editor of My Wine Education and recently started steps towards becoming a sommelier just for the hell of it. Michelle also blogs at Total Learner, where she intends to wax poetic on what should be and what isn’t within the field of learning. Oh, and she’s looking for a “real” job so feel free to reach out.

Note: Technology press releases should be sent to michelle[at]writetech[dot]net.

I haven’t posted to the site for a while. Not because nothing has struck my interest, but because I’ve been searching for a job. That’s a full-time job in itself, you know. It occurred to me this morning – it’s also worthy of a series of blog posts, because as much as I see from recruiters, I don’t see much out there from job seekers. None of us want to “poison the pool” so to speak … perhaps say the wrong thing in such a public forum as a blog. But I think we should.

I started looking for a job in June, thinking I wanted to transplant from Cincinnati, OH to San Francisco. It’s a big jump. It was really difficult and I wasn’t able to give anyone a definite date for my move. After all, I didn’t want to move unless I had a job. Unfortunately, no one wanted to pay to relocate me. I did have an interview in July, when I was in the Bay Area for something else. That’s a red flag right there — they didn’t even want to pay to fly me out for an interview.

At some point I realized I needed to commit to moving out here and I did it. I set the date. Then in September, I loaded up a new BMW and drove it 3,000 miles across the country. But I still didn’t have a job. I crashed with a girlfriend for a month and was still living off a minuscule retainer I had coming from my consulting business.

I’m an instructional designer, social marketer, and above all, a kick-ass trainer. I’ve gotten to know myself and my strengths pretty well over the last 6 mos of job shopping. So I’ve learned what I want in a job – what my top desires are, and I’m learning that I don’t like to “settle.”

I can’t even tell you how many recruiters I’ve talked to and interviews I’ve had. The hope and heartbreak involved in all of this has been nothing less than the world’s tallest emotional roller coaster. Companies may or may not mean to, but they truly play with your emotions. It’s hard. It’s a time full of rejection and loss of confidence. Why does your best friend get called for the same job for which you were overlooked? What isn’t popping on your resume? Yet, you can’t afford resume writing services (especially when paying exorbitant San Francisco rent) and trying to make car payments and just … survive.

I’ve gotten to the point where I really feel that a lot of companies have very little respect for the job seeker and what they go through on a daily basis. The obsessive checking of email, the lying to current jobs in order to commit to an inconvenient all-day interview (you can only do that so many times), obsessive checking of LinkedIn, the lack of response after interviews … even the amazingly slow process involved in getting hired. I had one job want to “rapidly” hire me and it still took seven interviews over two months. Then there is the “cancelling” the current position after interviewing someone multiple times. As the job seeker, you start to lose trust in a lot of companies. You start to see, if you dig deep enough, where they have ethics problems, just in how they treat their potential employees. I had one position send me an email telling me the job was cancelled and then offer me a position the next day. “Oops,” they said, “we meant to send that to the other applicants.”

I’ll spend the next few days or weeks relaying some of my overall experiences as I continue through this job search. Only recently, my heart was broken by a “sorta rejection” from what I saw as my dream job. I just want other people out there to know they aren’t alone. We all go through this, and it’s never easy.

Cheers!

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Michelle is a recent, wide-eyed transplant to the San Francisco Bay area. She still runs Write Technology, where she specializes in training, social learning strategy, and social marketing. Michelle is the executive editor of My Wine Education and recently started steps towards becoming a sommelier just for the hell of it. Michelle also blogs at Total Learner, where she intends to wax poetic on what should be and what isn’t within the field of learning. Oh, and she’s looking for a “real” job so feel free to reach out.

Note: Technology press releases should be sent to michelle[at]writetech[dot]net.

 

Months ago, Verizon sent me a Motorola Xoom to review. I’ll be honest. I avoided writing it. Not because I wanted to keep the Xoom longer, but because I really didn’t like it.

I’ve become adjusted, rather quickly I suppose, to a certain design aesthetic. Blame Apple or HTC, but I’ve come to expect a certain slickness, perhaps the tablet version of a race horse, in my phones and my tablets. I expect simple and beautiful and fast.

Off the top, the Xoom gave me none of this. It’s heavy, and the very hardware encourages landscape only use. I had a hard time finding the power button.

Does that give you pause?

I took it to a conference full of smart people in the learning and instructional design industry. None of them could find the power button either. While that helped my ego, it certainly doesn’t say much for the industrial design of the Xoom. And perhaps that is where my first complaint lies: the design is industrial. It is not friendly and simple, but cold and complex. The Xoom adheres to the Droid moniker; more Asimov than Number 5. (The power button, by the way, is on the back left, near the lens and the flash.)

The Xoom is fast; I certainly can’t argue that. A dual-core processor sitting in the palm of my hand … I know. Your iPad 2 has that as well.  Verizon’s highly touted 4G network? You can send the Xoom away and Motorola will upgrade it to the 4G LTE network and send it back to you, but it’s not ready yet. The Xoom feels rushed. It feels as though quality and design were sacrificed to be on the market before the iPad 2 arrived and stole the show, took away everyone’s attention. With Android v 3.0, the Xoom felt half-baked.

I held onto this Xoom for far too long, mainly so that I could test drive the 3.1 update. I have to admit, the update makes a difference. Whereas with 3.0, I was unable to make the Xoom talk to my Macbook Pro, I now have no trouble. This means I am now capable of adding photos and videos on the Xoom. The 3.1 update improved the navigation, making things snappier. It brought Google Music Beta with it, instantly pulling all my music onto the device. The 3.1 upgrade, overall, made this a much more stable machine. It no longer crashes constantly. The App store and Facebook both run now without imploding. Version 3.1 is a very good thing.

But why did we have to get an update? Shouldn’t it have run this well out of the gate?

If you’re accustomed to an Android phone, you’ll need about two days to adapt to the design of Honeycomb. The tablet OS is a major departure from what you’ve experienced in your pocket for the last year. Those changes have a ripple effect on the hardware, and is why you probably won’t see the adorable original Samsung Galaxy tab upgrading to Honeycomb.

On the bottom left, you’ll find the back, home, and navigation buttons. Basically, the navigation button launches a strip through which you can view all of your open apps. (Android v3.1 made this strip scrollable.) But here is where it gets funky. A small button usually (but not always) in the top right of your apps gives you the settings for that app. Sometimes that button is elsewhere. There is no standardization. No single menu button for developers to access. Device settings are found in the bottom right, but the real settings are three taps in. Accessing your apps also requires multiple taps. It’s not intuitive. Nothing is where you expect it to be. Perhaps the trick is to go in with no expectations whatsoever. I’m human, however, and I admit my experiences with other tablets, and Android phones, influenced my expectations and interactions with the Xoom.

I don’t dislike everything about the Xoom. The integration of widgets and redesign of the Android Market are gorgeous. The transition animations and small design considerations, like drop shadows, make the user interface lovely to view. The 10.1 inch, 1280×800 screen is beautiful. And the battery life? Even with 3G on all of the time, I get several days out of this. I spent one day, trapped in the backseat of a car, sitting in traffic and trying to get home from Chicago. On my 9-hour traffic ordeal, the Xoom did not fail me. I’d have been lost without it and I never once dropped Verizon’s 3G service while I heavily accessed Skype, Facebook, and email.

Aside from the design, my biggest problem with the Xoom isn’t really the fault of the tablet. There simply aren’t enough apps out there. An advantage the smaller, non-Honeycomb Galaxy has is that phone apps aren’t awful  on it’s smaller screen. But a phone app looks terrible on the Xoom; there is simply no way around it. The screen is too large, too pretty, and your typical phone app isn’t able to adapt. Just like with the iPad, many of the apps need to be re-written, both for Honeycomb compatibility and for screen size. Even with the release of 3.1, there just aren’t enough apps available.

I wanted so badly to love this tablet. I was predisposed to loving this tablet, being a bit of an Android geek. But I just can’t. My recommendation, and my apologies to the nice folks at Verizon who have been ever so patient with me, is to wait. Wait until the app market expands. Wait until there is a tablet with a lighter, easily accessible design.

One of the things I hate most in this world is wasted potential. The Xoom has a lot of untapped potential, but I don’t know if it will ever get to where it needs to be in order to compete. It’s one of the perils of being first on the market. There is always something better, shinier, coming up behind you, having learned from your mistakes.

Michelle Lentz is a freelance writer, trainer and instructional designer with a serious need for the latest and greatest gadgets. When she has time, she tries to be a wine blogger, although it may just be an excuse for free wine.  She currently lives in Cincinnati but has definite designs on the Bay area.

My thanks to my friend Bryan at the Gadgeteer for the screenshot above.