Sunday, May 10, 2015

How To Get The Job: 3 First Questions Probably on The Script

This series was inspired from my seven years experience listening to the good, the bad and the truly hideous interview. About half the applicants I turn away could have done the job and done it well. This guide will lead qualified candidates to avoiding major pitfalls in how they are presenting themselves during the interview process.


Be Prepared To Start from Scratch Establishing Who You Are: Your interviewer does not know you. Most likely they have not seen or remember your resume. Until someone called them down to the office they didn’t even know they were interviewing anyone. There's a 50/50 flip the interviewer will take a minute to scan your application, but odds are they won't know you're education, previous experience, how many hours you want to work, or anything else relevant.
  • Your interviewer was pulled away from a time sensitive task. Value the interviewer's time. Be direct and brief in your answers.
  • Your interviewer is following a script to create the most uniform experience. Whatever you said before got you to this point, you have to say it again. It is all new to this interviewer.

Have NO more than three traits about yourself that make you perfect for this job and always use one of these traits in every answer you are asked.

  • Be truthful regarding your personality traits.
  • Make sure your positive traits align with the job & the company you're applying for. For example being friendly could be a great trait in a cashier if the company prioritizes guest experience. If the company prioritizes the bottom line, being efficient or being vigilant against price inconsistencies may be more important traits
  • Have tangible examples to back up your traits. For example if you're friendly have examples of times you've welcomed new people to clubs/school/groups or show some interactions where you commonly go the extra mile. If you like to meet new people provide examples of positive experiences where that happened. If you're efficient explain how you completed tasks faster than expected or times you changed a process to make it faster for everyone to complete.

3 Questions on Nearly Every Interview:

  1. Why do you want to work for this company?
    • Name 1-2 things you like about this company.
    • Talk about how you like the experience with the company as a guest but only if you can work in how as an employee you'd be excited to facilitate that experience in these ways.
    • Match your skill set to the company's goals.
    • If you know anything about the company's pay and benefits from your phone interview or from a friend now is a time to talk about how the company meets your needs in these ways too. Companies like mutually beneficial fits. It suggests that you'll be satisfied with the work and stay with the company long enough for them to make their training dollars back.
    • If you are looking for a career, now is the time to talk about how the company may fit into your career aspirations. You're starting at position X but you have these skills and would really like to see yourself move into these other positions with a great company
    • Service Industry groups accept that we're often transition jobs for college students, high schoolers, and stay at home parents. If applicable, now is the time to speak to how this job ties to the other part of your life. Once a stay at home mom discussed how my company's charity work had helped her family/community and she wanted to work for a company with values active in her community. A student explained that the consistency of work schedule we provided vs competition could allow him to schedule classes while providing him school funds.

  1. What is your relevant experience?
    • I don't care if you've had a job or not YOU HAVE RELEVANT EXPERIENCE
    • Go back to the job requirements and relate them to part of your life. Maybe you've run or helped to run events before where you greeted people, helped people find something, made a suggestion to another person, prepared food for a group bigger than 8, introduced a new person to a school or club. The list is literally endless. Think about it a little before you go in to the interview and have relevant experience ready. The interviewer will be impressed with your effort, ingenuity, and creativity. Also making deep connections into your life will show that you really “get” and “live” the philosophy—which will make you easier to train.

  1. If the interviewer spoke to a teacher, coach, previous boss, or peer name 2 strengths and 1 weakness they would say you have.
    • DO NOT say you have “no weaknesses”. It's arrogant and it's not true. Those “no weakness” people almost always remain unemployed.
    • Diminish your weakness by framing it and showing how you try to solve it. For instance, if you get overwhelmed when “too much” is going on, you could first elaborate what that really means. Is it 2 things or 10? Show how you have a strategy for overcoming this. Maybe, you take a moment to review what needs to be done and prioritize it as a list. Maybe you call for assistance with the tasks. Almost any weakness sounds reasonable with the right framing.
    • You can try to pick a non-applicable weakness like “I'm bad at geography”but DON’T. Based off of that non-answer, I can think of several more realistic answers like: “I don't take important tasks seriously”, “I don't value other's time”, “I get very nervous in stressful situations and react inappropriately”, and “I have no concept of how inane I sound right now”.

If everything is amazing in your interview, than you may get away with a flip non-answer but this type of response may make you seem cocky. If your interview is mixed, a joke answer might be a nail in the coffin. They'll remember you, but it might not be a good thing.
    • Make sure your strengths relate to the job, it's best to actually talk about how you see them helping you in the job. Reliability, dependability, and honesty are traits necessary for all jobs. Examples showing these are always winners. In service related jobs caring, empathy, and desire to please are traits that get high marks. Certain companies appreciate integrity, an eye for visual display, and a knowledge base of technology/apps/social media.

That's the first third of your interview. Smile, you're not quite half done! Next time we'll cover the “tell me about a time when” questions and all the best scenarios you could choose to stand out while being exactly what the hiring manager is looking for.  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

How To Get The Job: A Few Questions You Should NOT Be Asked in an Interview

This series was inspired from my seven years experience listening to the good, the bad and the truly hideous interview. About half the applicants I turn away could have done the job and done it well. This guide will lead qualified candidates to avoiding major pitfalls in how they are presenting themselves during the interview process.

Previously we Covered:

We're going to very briefly talk about questions which are illegal to asking in the USA.

It's never in your favor to answer these questions or to offer this information voluntarily.

Most articles list 7 separate categories interviews shouldn't touch on they include: age, race, national origin, gender, marital status, and sexual orientation. Below, I've listed the top illegal questions I've seen others ask in interviewing workshops, role play interviews, or on occasion when I've been interviewing for a position.

Questions You Should NEVER Be Asked and SHOULD NOT ANSWER in an Interview:

  1. Any question about your race or ethnicity: These include What is your nationality/are you a US citizen/what's your native language/how long have you lived here?
  2. Any question regarding your religious beliefs? What's your religious faith/which religious holidays do you observe? “I belong to ??? church which one do you belong to?”
  3. Any question regarding your age: How old are you? What years did you graduate High School? THERE IS ONE EXCEPTION TO THIS: If you need to be a minimum age to perform the job’s duties. For instance, the minimum age to use a deli slicer is 16.
  4. Any question concerning your family situation Do you have kids/ is your babysitter reliable/ can you get a babysitter short notice? Do you have a husband/wife/significant other?

Though there are questions similar to these that an interviewer MAY ask, ones that get too specific regarding age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability are illegal in the USA. If you're asked these questions you should remain calm and friendly but politely decline to answer them.

You can try re-framing the situation with “Why do you ask?”. It may give both you a chance to gracefully backtrack into job related queries. Perhaps the interviewer just wants to know if you're open to working Christmas or Easter. This allows you to respond appropriately to their concerns.

Sometimes the interviewer is just trying to make some small talk and has no reason they are asking the question. Just like this might be one of the first times you are interviewing, this might be one of the first times this person is the interviewer. Allow them the opportunity to back away from a question that seems not relevant to the job.

If necessary redirect them by asking them “What are the 3 main skills you are looking for?” or “What traits do you feel are important for a person to have who is doing this job?

If these tactics don't work, chances are your interview is not going well. It may be time to get up and leave the interview.

Remember, once you have the job, you have to work for these people. As much as an interview is about whether you're the right fit for a company, a company should also be putting it's best face forward. Don't stay in an interview that makes you uncomfortable or in an interview where you learn you do not want the job on offer.

Do you need more information on this topic? May I recommend reading:

11 Interview Questions that are Actually Illegal

30 Interview Questions you Can't ask and 30 Sneaky Alternatives to Get the Same Info

5 Job Interview Questions that Are Illegal to Ask

Ready for more?  The next part of my Series is Up The First 3 Questions in the Interview

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

8 Points Poetry Can Strengthen Writers and 2 Place Poetry Can Take Your Writing

  1. How to respect the rules Sonnets, haiku, and vienelles are very structured. Next time you're struggling to write a five paragraph essay try adding iambic pentameter with an ABAB rhyme scheme and see if it gets easier. Sure, you might think in poetry the rules don't apply but they do. Each poem has its own unique rules and structure. You might create those rules but there are rules.
  1. How to break the rules Poetry is the chill middle school kid of writing. It welcomes you in with a “Hey, what's up? I have these three rules: follow them unless they don't apply, in that case, please make up your own that work better.

  1. How to cut through crap Poetry doesn't need set up, a summary or a transition. Poems are the easiest way to make a point. You can't render personal, political, or social truth any more directly than through poetic form.

  1. Punctuation, punctuation, punctuation! There are so many rules in traditional formats regarding when and how to use a semicolon vs. colon. In poetry, there is just Punctuation for emphasis. It's fun to see how you can change meaning with a well placed period or a dash.

While poetry won't teach you the proper grammar rules for other forms of writing, it might make you more confident to experiment. After all, who cares if it's a semi colon or colon as long as the reader gets the meaning?

  1. The importance of a visually appealing work Readers want an indication of readability. Lists, quotes, punctuation, and short paragraphs can all indicate readability. Short paragraphs indicate to the reader a minimal commitment of time.

  1. Honesty and fearlessness in writing Poetry is NEVER the time to hold back. What have you been holding back or rationalizing? Let it out in poetry! There is no better confessional, rant platform, or happy jig than a well worded poem.

  1. Your writing style and preferences Poetry can be short and quick to cook up, so you can amass a collection very quickly. By reviewing your work, you'll be able to evaluate your strengths, weaknesses and preferred topics. You'll get a strong sense of who you are as a writer and what kind of writing is going to work best for you.
  1. Who is your primal self Poetry is both a raw and gilded. Expression does not get bogged down in semantics. You create in a natural and intuitive sense. Reviews of your work might lead you to “I didn't know I had that in me,” or “I didn't know how strongly I felt.”

It will take you no time at all to relate these top 8 lessons to other works. Poetry will bleed into standard prose, and your work will be more interesting and compelling for it.

I do have 2 more thoughts on what poetry will teach you, but they are more practiced skills. Only for the ambitious and determined writer.

  1. How to show and not tell Writers take the short cut of telling all the time. What sounds better “the dawn way beautiful,” or “the dawn broke luminous and large in the eastern horizon. Where the pall of darkness festered, warm rays stabbed onto the land. They destroyed all the night's terrors with the warm joyful gift of sight.” Poetics nurtures and encourages this kind of showing.

  1. Introducing more senses. Writing descriptive sounds, smells and touches further engages a reader. Using all four senses to describe when something smells bad is difficult. A smell is subjective with less common experience for the writer to refer to. Often in describing a smell writers will work a back story to lay common ground for the reader to experience the smell. Sounds, smells, and touches will make your fictional world visceral to a reader . Poetry wrings every drop of sensatory experience using the words themselves to create sounds, smells, and touches.

Poetry is not for everyone.

Still, you should create a poem or two. Remember, a quality poem isn't always the goal. Some of the best writing lessons come from works where everything else fails spectacularly!

Is your writing stale? Are you having trouble finding your voice? Do you lack inspiration? Follow a poetic prompt to get your mojo back. Even if your work is a train wreck with chemical spilling out everywhere and an explosion on the horizon, you will have gained valuable insight because the nature of poetic form and creation.   

Monday, April 27, 2015

How To Get the Job: Dress to Impress!!

This series was inspired from my seven years experience listening to the good, the bad and the truly hideous interview.  About half the applicants I turn away could have done the job and done it well.   This guide will lead qualified candidates to avoiding major pitfalls in how they are presenting themselves during the interview process.

If you missed it, here is:

Dress For the Job you want, not the job you are Applying for.  Cliche but true!  When I see someone in ripped jeans or a mussed t shirt, all I can think is that they didn't really care about this job.  

The price of  admission are clean khakis and a polo or button up shirt.  I won't be impressed with this outfit. I won't think of fast tracking you. You will merely be an acceptable.

I write down what kind of effort the applicant put into their appearance on the application.  Effort counts a lot.  Remember even if this is “just a job” for you, the interviewer and hiring manager think of this as a career.  They really care and they don't want to hire you if you don't match their intensity.

The Outfit:
  • Wear dress pants or a knee length professional skirt/dress.  
  • Suit or sports jacket is preferred
  • All apparel  should be clean and in good condition.   No buttons missing, no hems hanging, no frayed cuffs, no holes.
  • Pressed
  • All apparel should be well fitting.  Not too large or too tight.   Too long or too short.   
  • Shoes clean and no athletic shoes or sandals especially flip flops

This outfit will make your interviewer happy and start you on the right foot.   The EXCEPTION:  high end dining, entertainment, and hospitality demands higher standards of dress.  You're going to have to be comfortable rocking a full suit to dress at one level above the job you're applying for.

Once the outfit is in place here are some additional grooming points everyone should be aware of.

For Men: I want to see a button up shirt and tie. This is preferred just not by me but most hiring managers.
  • Traditional plaids, even though the shirt technically buttons up, are NOT acceptable. Gingham, gentle plaid, and windowpane are all styles that hold some similarities to traditional flannel plaid, but may be appropriate for an interview with the correct accents.  Please check out this guide if you need examples of the pattern styles 
  • Some people are going to tell you ties are optional: they aren't.  If I expect women to pick out appropriate jewelry and make up you better be 100% certain I'm looking for ties on men!  I'm not alone here, most of the male managers I've worked with want ties, and while we hire people without ties, every owner or manager I've worked for Notices and Laments over a lack of tie.
  •  I've seen some awesome bow ties recently, and I love how neat and stylish it's made candidates appear.  If you want to stand out a little and your outfit allows, a bow tie could be just the thing.   Some hiring managers may be put off by this so it is a risk.

For the Ladies:
  • Wear a blouse or button up shirt.  
    • Avoid showing cleavage
    • Don't let your bra show
    • Don't wear anything too sheer,  
    • DO NOT go sleeveless without a jacket.  
    • Absolutely no mid-drift.
    • If needed discreetly pin closed any gaps that may show your bra
  • A suit jacket is a positive addition with a dress although a simple cardigan can complete an interview outfit.

Take it from the Top: Faces and Hands Are KEY.


Neat Hair: Your hair should be neat.  The messy bed head look is a style, but we can tell if there's gel in your hair and it's intentional or if you're just too lazy to put some water on it to flatten it.  If you have long hair please take the time to style it. Wash it, pull it back, or take the time and product to make it look nice when it's down.  I can promise you won't work a service area I'm in if your hair is a greasy mess when you come to interview.   

For Ladies:
Please, no messy buns. Natural hair might be best if you pull it back into a neat pony tail )prevents weather from effecting your hair before an interview) or spray the fly aways down.  Curly haired ladies: you have a choice to either flatten you hair or really refine the curls for the interview. In very conservative interviews curly hair is a risk. I have had hiring managers ask me “you accepted her/him with hair like that?!” when it was perfectly styled because they just don't get how curly hair works. Consider very carefully the kind of place you're interviewing for, how often you may be in the public eye, and if you can go to the physical building and see how other employees look. Remember, they have the job and can look less than perfect, but there may still be one or two uniform preferred looks. Not matter what type of hair you have it should be neatly and conservatively styled.

Men with LONG Hair: Do not wear it down. If you have shoulder length hair pull it back in a neat ponytail or bun for the interview.

Be Rested: Get a good night's sleep before the interview if you can.  I don't let bags under the eyes or a haggard look count against a person, but it doesn't really help either.  Likewise: take care of your teeth.  Again I've hired folks with dental problems, but I know a lot of people find this a turn off.

Tattoos: Know both corporate and Franchise policy on tattoos! If ink is not allowed, go on and cover it up before the interview. If you need make up, bandaids, or clothing with sleeves, wear it. It's better for the hiring manager never be aware of a tattoo, as they will start to discount you as soon as they know it could be a problem.

Groomed Nails and Hands: Your hands should also be clean and nails should be short and of even length.     Applicants whose pinkie  and ring finger nails are a lot longer than the rest of their nails suggests either a drug habit or a lack of attention to detail.  I don't want either in my work force.   Beware if you are applying for a job in food service Federal Government regulations require clean unpolished nails.   No artificial nails at all. Wearing them to an interview is fine, but you will be asked if you are prepared to remove them before any hiring process can move forward.

Clean faces:  Make sure your face is clean.  
For Men, if you have facial hair make sure it's trimmed and neat. Clean shaven gentlemen: please make sure you have a fresh shave. Some jobs will require you to be clean shaven. While it's easier to maintain food safety with a fresh shave, it's usually a styl-istic choice on the part of management. The hiring manager will inform you at the interview and want a positive response so be ready.

   For Women:  Your face should be clean and neat.  You should wear light make up.  It's safest to go with neutral natural highlights.   Remember you want the interviewer to see you not your makeup.  Now is not the time to experiment with a new cosmetics.

Additionally for Women: Jewelry should be simple.   If you wear earrings studs are best but small dangles are also acceptable.   Likewise, only wear discreet necklaces.  Make sure your necklace doesn't fight with your neckline.  It should fall either well about the neckline and settle closely around the neck, or well below the neckline and showcase the shirt.

For Men Jewelry should be limited to a watch and a ring.  Bracelets, chains, and earrings are not appropriate for most interviews.

So now you look like the perfect hire!  Next time, we'll start discussing how to put your strengths forward in a way that will carry the most meaning to your interviewer.

Let Me Know:
-Anything you felt I missed or glossed over?  
-Was my advice helpful?  
-Do you have further questions or concerns?

Was this guide helpful?  Help a friend and help a friend: share it please and thank you!

See the next Part of this series: Questions An Interviewer Should Not Ask

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How To Get The Job: The Dreaded Phone Interview

This series is inspired from my seven years experience listening to the good, the bad and the truly hideous interview. About half the applicants I turn away could have done the job and done it well. This guide will lead qualified candidates to avoiding major pitfalls on how to navigate the interview process.

If you haven't, feel free to check out part 1 of the series.

You got the call now what???

The Phone Interview:
First, congrats! You filled out the application correctly. You are a “YES” or a “MAYBE.” The stack of “No” is way larger than the stack of “Yes” and “Maybe” combined, so this IS an accomplishment, even if it doesn't feel like it.

Some Advice for the Phone Interview:

  • Know How to Sell Yourself. You may be truly qualified in every way to work at this position. That's awesome and we want you to have a chance to show it! The phone interview is NOT the time to be too diverse.
    • Pick 1 Amazing trait that gels with the job You will overwhelm the note taker on the other end if you say to many different things. He or she might not record the right parts of your sales pitch.
    • This is a Gate Keeper: The person calling you for this first pass is not the decision maker. It's possible they are 100% in tune with what the boss wants, but it's just as likely they are guessing. A clear message takes all the guess work out of it.
    • Make sure your Connection is Good: Your actual connection could be bad. Repeating the same message over and over gives it the best chance of being heard.

  • Pause and Wait for the Questions: Give your interviewer space between answers! They are writing down what you said, so give them time to do it. BE COMFORTABLE WITH SILENCE. You will be prompted if they want more information.
    • Keep it Simple: Too much talking muddies your message and you risk the interviewer writing down the wrong thing
    • Rambling is when people get into trouble. I was about to offer a person a job. I was just finishing writing my notes, but the person wasn't comfortable with silence while I wrote and said something negative about management at their last job—Huge Mistake. Sometimes less is more.
    • Silence shows confidence and control in stressful situations. The single BEST non-verbal que you can give that you are right for the job on a phone interview is wait to be prompted. It shows patience and a willingness to take direction.

  • Know Something about the Company. Know about the company you're applying to and how they like to run business. Are they most proud of efficiency, friendliness, quality product? Their web presence will give you a clue.
    • Be Positive about the job “Don't say anything along the lines of “it's a service job, they're all really the same” or “anyone could do the job” or “what you want is simple/easy”. If you do this you probably won't get brought in for a face to face.

  • Be prepared for situational questions over the phone. A few years ago we used to only ask generic questions, but present day we'll dive into the open ended “Tell me about a time X happened to you”
    • The answer doesn't have to be amazing but you DO need an answer
    • Feel free to use “off the top of my head” and other phrases that will allow time for you think of an answer.
    • Also feel free to say things like “give me a moment” or “I'm thinking” don't rush into an answer if you think you can do better.

  • Have some questions ready. They might include:
    • What does the interview and hiring process look like?
    • How many positions are open?
    • What is your ideal candidate’s availability?
    • I got the impression that quality x was most important to you is that correct?

Do this in the phone interview and Congrats, you'll get to move on to the in person interview. Feel free to celebrate! Next time We'll Talk about What to Wear for the best possible first impression.

Let Me Know:
-Anything you felt I missed or glossed over?
-Share a story of a memorable phone interview!
-Was my advice helpful?
-Do you have further questions or concerns?

Was this guide helpful? Help a friend and help a friend: share it please and thank you!

Update!  The Next Part of my Series Dress to Impress is now up, please follow here to read further.

Friday, April 10, 2015

How To Get The Job: Part 1 Trying Get A Dreaded Phone Interview

This series is inspired from my seven years experience listening to the good, the bad and the truly hideous interview. About half the applicants I turn away could have done the job and done it well. This guide will lead qualified candidates to avoiding major pitfalls on how to navigate the interview process.

Getting Started: How to get a Phone Interviews:
Applications are read and sorted into three piles, “Yes, No, or Maybe”

An application falls into the “Yes” pile if there is:

  • Open availability—in the service industry this is the BIGGEST impact to whether we consider you.

  • Relevant experience. Corporate/franchises see candidates will little to no experience as a risky investment. Labor/training is the most expensive factor in running a business. Managers want to minimize this major “controllable” cost. A Candidate with no experience might apply at a “Mom and Pop” store where managers are more willing to train an inexperienced candidate.

  • The Position is Open. If the openings are for sales and you apply for HR assistant even if you are qualified for sales you go to the “No” pile.

  • Versatility and Flexibility: Demonstrating on your resume willingness to do more than one job shows you are eager. We want eager people and applying for more than one job position shows you're eager. It also says you’re versatile and able to handle more than one thing—all good traits in high demand.

If the resume outlines these traits, congrats, you're hire-able. The human resources gate keeper will call you with a few follow up questions and a quick phone interview. The yes pile is not a sure thing.

You might get a phone call because you are in The Maybe Pile:
You got to the “Maybe” file because:

  • Your availability happened to be the time slots needed to be filled.

  • You have no experience but there are no experienced candidates available so we will train.

  • Your experience, while not directly related was in seasonal work of some sort or was some kind of part time school work related gig. Finding this information out takes more time on the reviewer's part and since he or she is usually skimming, you're lucky they caught this tidbit.

  • You didn't apply for an available position but for some reason our applicant pool is low and we decided you might fit the job available. If you fall into this category you put A LOT of faith in the the gate keeper and honestly, most of them are not very thorough so you are really really lucky.  

Those are the factors in getting your first phone interview.  Seems pretty simple right?  It's not,  the "no" pile is far larger than the "yes" and "maybe" combined!  

Next time, I'll cover the phone interview plan.  For now let's hear from you!  

Let Me Know:
-Anything you felt I missed or glossed over?
-Share a story of a memorable phone interview!
-Was my advice helpful?
-Do you have further questions or concerns?

Was this guide helpful? Help a friend and help a friend: share it please and thank you!

Please check out the next part of the series here.

Monday, April 6, 2015

3 Things Baristas, Don't Want to Discuss & 9 Brighter Topics of Conversation:

When I'm on the clock, it's all about the job. Who I am, what I think and believe,has to fall away. I need to provide a premiere experience for my guest. Of course, there are topics my guests should know are off limits. These things include:
  1. Saying hateful things about other races, religions, or sexual identities. I'll try not to be a jerk, but silence is tacit agreement.

  1. Trying to convert me to another faith. There is literally no polite way to tell someone “No”. Even if I personally appreciated the injection of faith into my work day, I'm responsible for other employees who may be uncomfortable with this.
  1. Trying to sell makeup, jewelry, or any direct sales item to me or my co-workers. Why are you pressuring someone who has to be nice to you to buy something they probably can’t afford?

Friendly reminder: please avoid the above three subjects with hospitality, food service, and retail staff.

Now you know, we don't want to hear about controversial subjects particularly when our jobs prohibit us from contributing to the conversation. Some suggestions I have when you want to make conversation with your serving staff:

  1. Keep it light and breezy with some smooth weather conversation.

    1. Talk about you. I like hearing about your kids/grand kids/ nephews or nieces /pets. I like hearing you have a promotion or that your friend is visiting .

    1. Tell me about a trip you took. This is especially popular if you did something on a thrifty budget I might be able to mimic.
    1. Tell me about your new diet, sugar substitute, milk substitute, or update me on how your pursuit of gluten free is going. Personally, I know a lot about healthy eating and different dieting techniques, but more generally, service people are always running into special diets and allergies. Most of us are interested in hearing more about why we're making drinks a special way. If it's a diet we want to know if it was effective. Hearing about your allergies or struggles can help us deliver a safer allergy free food to you.

    1. Talk about a food or product you like. I'm in retail/food service. Stuff like that is kind of my wheel house.
    1. Tell me about a book, movie, or TV show. We're all watching popular media, chances are good I've seen it or heard of it. Even if I don't know it, you might be introducing me to something new I could be enjoying.

    1. Tell me about something local that's going on. There's always a farmer's market, fair, play, or some other local flavor I'd like to know more about.

    1. Feel free to talk about your holiday plans. This is a way to positively share your faith and include us in a way that doesn't pressure us to make any statements about our faith. We all want to hear about a fun party! Graduations, weddings, and birthday parties are fun celebrations we also like hearing about.

    1. Give us a complement. I love recommending my hair stylist (Cost Cutters all the way!), telling you where I got my $1.50 eyeliner, or how I like my brand of khaki pants. My one caveat is to be careful NOT to slide into hitting on us. Personally, I've never enjoyed this kind of attention, though the jury is out on whether this is generally welcome in the industry.

Finally, please look for your best opportunity to speak with us. There's quite a few regulars I enjoy talking to, but no matter how curious I am about their trip to Alaska or how long it's been since I've seen them, I'm way too stressed/busy to chat with them if there is a line. When traffic is heavy please refrain from starting a conversation with us. If you're enjoying a chat but new guests arrive: please understand if we have to cut you short. It's not you, it's the job.

Join the Conversation:
-Has someone ever said something inappropriate to you while you were working and what did you do?
-Are there any places you visit regularly to say “Hi” to the team? What did they do that created that feeling of connection for you?
-Did I miss another fun light topic you like to bring up with service workers?

Enjoy this post and want to read more like it?  Try: The Dumbest Question You Could Ask Your Barista

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March in Review and Plans For April

I've been running this blog since March 7th. In that time I've published 10 posts and had a little over 300 website hits. That's about 10 hits a day or 30 hits per post. Both seem respectable for the first month running. First month is more a baseline to build on than a useable metric.

I got the most hits on March 25th . On that particular day I re-tweeted an older post AND I added a new post to my blog. I only got 15 page views total. Moving forward, it's clear I need to continue to increase my online presence and push for higher visibility. Some things I'm implementing:

Based off these Successes in April I will:
  1. Increase participation in twitter. I don't know how useful twitter is. There is a learning curve in how to best use this tool and I;m very much still learning. The limited of 140 word and applications that allow for easy post scheduling make it stupid not to further explore this tool.
  2. Reaching out to some google + communities. I've been reading and responding to some blogging communities, but I haven't been promoting my own blog in community as I should.
  3. Pictures. Online readers are looking for more visuals in the media they are consuming. Adding two or three visuals to my work is like twenty minutes more work, but people say it increases conversion ten fold. I'm going to test it out.
  4. Maintaining a presence in the community. I've only been here a month, and I'm already establishing connections with others through commenting, re-sharing, and participating in conversations happening. Hopefully I'm building something positive that will continue to steadily grow.

The biggest things to note: these articles are not actually my three best written, most informative, or most tagged with keywords. What they have in common: all three were commented on by a blogger more established than me. So thanks Christian Touchet, Luna Darcy, Alisha Trost, and Kellie-AnnRussell for increasing my visibility!

Things that are working for me writing wise:
-List style writing. It seems more popular to write a list and have a title TELLING the reader there's only X level of investment you need to get through this piece.

-Quick Turn around. I have a back log of potential posts for my blog. I have six posts on deck. And countless other ideas to implement and try.

Stuff I Need to Work On:
-Too many words per post.

-Creating more links both outside the blog and within it. References helps to build overall quality of work—even if it takes more time to write.     

Saturday, March 28, 2015

8 Secrets I Wish I knew About Writing While I Was In High School

  1. Keep writing! Writing is more of a compulsion than a passion. Don't bog yourself down by holding it in. The more you write the better you will get.
  1. Your writing is not perfect especially if no one else has had a chance to critique it. In my teens, I'd spend all my time writing ignoring school, friends, and family For the record, this is not a healthy way to live. While you should definitely carve out time for writing in your life, doing it at the exclusion of all else is going to close off experiences and knowledge. In retrospect, it set me up to feel like my writing had to be at a certain level just because of all the other stuff I moved to the side. No one needs that kind of pressure. Trust me, first attempts are going to flop don’t give up a good Algebra grade for it.
Don’t be more interested in arguing how good what you wrote is than listening to constructive feedback. The person reading your work is only providing input because they see something worth refining. Critiques signal that the reviewer found value in your work. Get out of your own way and be open to what people were suggesting.

The first copy you show people, no matter how polished, is STILL A DRAFT. Entering with that mind set is going to be unspeakably helpful to receiving critique and to improving your work.

  1. Remember all writing is collaborative. I was and am really into Emily Dickenson and she was a hermit! She never had to speak to or be reviewed/corrected by a single soul, surely I could expect the same. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Ms. Dickenson wrote solely for herself. She never had any intention of publishing, it was only after her death that her family wanted that for her writing.
  • When her work was first published someone else edited the living heck out of it so it would conform to poetic standards of the time. We read the original today, but for a long time a stranger, with no input from the author, decided what was meant by the work and how best to present it.
  • Ms. Dickenson wasn't around to see her work thrive.
Dive into the community by:
  • Joining a local writers' group. This will give you a group of objective people to critique your work. It will also give you a chance to be the critic. You may be more able to avoid common writing traps now that you've seen it in others' writing.
  • Get a Blog. This creates a potentially worldwide presence that establishes you as a writer with experience in X style. Weekly posts will show others your discipline and commitment to your craft.
  1. Start building a portfolio. Any peer reviewed, relevant final work can go into a portfolio, but it will carry more weight as a high graded paper, a contest winning work, or a published work. This will increase your community engagement, prepare you to apply for work, and help build your confidence.
  • Submit a piece for publication. Check out if you school has publication opportunities. Look into magazine submissions and online posting opportunities. It is never too early to be published or to learn about the submission process. DO NOT let fear hold you back. Life will go on with either a “yes” or a “no” and there is a lot to learn from both answers.
  • Submit your work to writing contests. Do a little research and make a splash in the writer's community by becoming a contest winning author!
  1. Get some references/testimonials. Talk to your English teacher, writing coach, or even a peer and have them write a review for your work. Even if you are not a contest winner , a reference from a creditable person about your talent can go a long way in helping you get what you want.
It's great practice telling people what your goals are and asking them for help in getting what you want.

  1. Don't let “no” scare you off. I expected everyone to just acknowledge my literary genius. Really? It was conceited. I expected all the doors to be open. Hearing “no” was particularly crushing in this context.

There are going to be a million “No's” to your writing BUT it's not a rejection of you or your talent. “No” is a business decision for that group at that time. It could mean their budget was cut, it could mean your work is right for five or six future things but not this one thing right now, or it could just mean competition was fierce and there's more work for you to do. Nobody automatically thinks an actor, dancer, or singer is bad when the hiring team says “no” to them, writing is very much the same way.

I've found going in and expecting “no” helpful. It makes me look for reasons people would say no and build arguments against it. It also makes hearing “yes” amazing while making “no” just so much background noise.
  1. Be open to a lot of directions with your writing career. Career day showcases a lot of traditional career paths. How to be a police officer or a small business owner is a pretty clear to most people. Even how to be an actor, musician, singer, or novelist, while a hard path, is pretty well understood by the general populace. The options as a writer are a little more obscure.
Freelance work is really a broad and varied world. Do you want to run a blog, do you want to be a technical writer, do you want to pitch creative ads and marketing techniques, do you want to professionally write reviews, do you want to run e-courses and coaching sessions for other writers, or do you want to do something else? There are a lot of options for creative innovative aspiring writers and the formula to get there is pretty fluid.
  1. Consider community college. I'm not going to say college is a waste to the aspiring writer, because it's not. I made my greatest improvements to my writing style in college. If I'd had a greater sense of purpose, I would have made some amazing networking connection in college. I'm pretty sure I have my day job because I hold a degree. College DOES earn you some things. However, what I got out of the experience does not validate the price tag for my four year degree. If I could do it all over again, I would have gone to community college and worked. I would have had less debt and would have taken advantage of more opportunities while I was there. I would have had more time and experience to learn what I needed to do to get the most from a four year degree program.
There is a lot of pressure to go to college and get a traditional 4 year away from home experience. I know the college “experience” has been elevated to an almost mythical status through our cultural narrative. Although the opportunity for education and growth may still be unparalleled by a traditional 4 year college, you have to know and take full advantage of almost every opportunity presented to you to make up for the cost.

Does your opinion differ from mine? Did I leave something out or put something horrible in the list? Leave your own advice and feedback to would be writers below!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Dumbest Question You Could Ask Your Barista

If you've ever asked a barista, waiter, bartender, or cashier if they “like their job”, you may be stressing your server out for no real reason. Exactly how do you want your service person to answer the question and what do you really want to know

“Yes” is probably a lie. I've never met someone who's fulfilled by working the bottom tier service industry. In a roundabout way the job might make them happy. It might provide the schedule to do something creative/educational in the background. Maybe, it’s an opportunity to make connections that they are hoping to leverage into a better career or a better living space.

“No” is a whole other dangerous can of worms. What if your boss overhears you? It sounds dumb. The boss shouldn't care if you're happy so long as you do your job, but they care. Every guest complaint is your fault because you're giving out the vibe you're not happy here. And you need to be more grateful you have a job and are getting paid.

If you're a manager, it's even more deadly to tell a guest you don't like your job. All your employees will hear you and think to themselves “Well my boss doesn't even like this job, so this place is just terrible and I should leave” or “My boss doesn't even care so I don't have to do a good job.” Yeah, being happy and caring about a job are not the same thing, but you'd be surprised how often the two are confused.

Saying “no, I don't like this job” could be seen as a backhanded expression of “no I don't like serving you”. A guest might be offended, ascend offending a guest is about the worse thing you can do.

Why do you care if we like our jobs? Are you going to leave your career and join the minimum wage service industry?

Honestly, do people come to where you work and randomly ask you if you like your job? How would you feel if a random stranger entered your work space, had you do a bunch of tasks which you did as cheerfully and effectively as you could and mid way through asked “do you like working here?” Does it sound mildly like a threat to your security no matter the inflection?

Next time, ask what you really want to know like “is it fun to work the espresso machine” or “it must be nice to know so much about wine pairing” or whatever the heck it is that you thought made this job fun/cool. It's kind of nice to be reminded of the sweet parts of the gig and it's always makes my day to hear that someone else has an appreciation for the way I handle part of my job.

If you're looking for work for your teen, then just open with that. Most people will let you know the minimum hiring age for their store and are often TOO open about whether or not it's realistic for a teen to work their job. There is a lot to consider when hiring teens, but I do find that often my employees will chase away possible candidates based off what THEY do on the job that a teen legally couldn't do. As a manager, I'd make space for a teen to work a shift. The right teenager brings a bubbly enthusiasm, speed and friendliness to guest service that can rejuvenate the rest of the staff and can be hard to find in a more seasoned worker.

For the record, I hesitate to hire teens whose parents or family are job hunting for them. It signals to me that the teen doesn't really want the job or the teen isn't competent enough to handle the job.

If you're using “do you like your job” as a segway to offer us a job, just present the opportunity. Don't play games with us about whether or not this is all we see ourselves doing with our lives. Remember, everyone in the service industry is underemployed. We all have skills and talents that go way beyond filling your order, taking your money, making wine suggestions, or scanning items. Give us the credit that you would a chimp and acknowledge we're at minimum bored and frustrated. Just like you wouldn't bang on the glass in the monkey house, don't waste our time with a stupid invasive question.

Opening Up the Conversation:
-Have you asked people in the service industry if they like their jobs and if so why?
-Have you ever seen a skill in a service person that made you think, this person could do more than this?
-Have you ever offered a job to or hired someone who was serving you?
-If you work in the service industry, have you ever been asked if you like your job and how did you handle it?
-If you don't work in the service industry, has anyone asked you if you like your job and what was the context?

-Do you love your job or industry and if so what do you do?