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Archive for the ‘Career Moves’ Category

Four months equals a lifetime

In Career Moves, Life is Random, Relationships on December 13, 2011 at 9:48 am

The title sums up what I feel about the last few months. All the words are in my head like the fall leaves in the yard. They fell daily, but I did nothing about them as they fell. Overwhelmed, I feel the need to rake them up and push them out, but I know the piles of words would be worth nothing to you all jumbled up in great mounds of earthy, moldy brown. Chew them up, sprinkle them about, and they become rich mulch to nourish and grow thoughts of your own.

But where do I begin?

Do I need to change the name of my blog? I now have TWO jobs that I love. I am working as a writer for the Mississippi Development Authority during the week and laying out pages for The Clarion-Ledger on the weekend. I have the best of both worlds, and I feel uncommonly lucky. Saying I am excited about my future doesn’t sufficiently express what I am feeling and have been feeling for the past few weeks.

What gives?

Relationships. A man? I don’t even have time to shave my legs! How can I be bothered with finding a man? I can’t. I don’t want to. I want to work two jobs, pay off my loans and buy a kayak. Simple. Focused. Perfection. Happiness.

In the meantime, I want to let the words drift and fall to you a few at a time — not pile into unmanageable mounds.

I will share the joys of waiting tables at some time in the future. That was a short-lived but priceless adventure.

Dating, the lack thereof AND my sense of satisfaction with the current state of affairs…another topic swirling around in my head.

I picked up a book titled Emotional Intelligence a few weeks back. Reading that same phrase in Fortune magazine yesterday reminded me that I really should read up on it. Seems to be a trend.

Lots to talk about. Lots to write about. Lots to be happy about.

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You can’t make comfort food with whole wheat flour…or can you?

In Career Moves, Life is Random on August 2, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I haven’t posted to my blog in a while because I have been stressed again about the job search. I was afraid that anything I tried to write would come out as a bunch of whining. That makes me feel guilty because, as a whole, my life is pretty darn good right now. My kids are healthy. I’m getting my bills paid despite the fact that it is no fun to have very little money left over afterwards. I have a home that will be mine in 29 1/2 years. My car runs and is very gas efficient. I get asked out on dates and asked in for interviews. Things just haven’t come together as quickly as I want them to.

The thing is, I’ve done a lot of really interesting things with my career. I didn’t finish college as I had planned back in the early 90s. This meant I had to get a little creative to make things happen. Creative is a good thing. I believe it proved to prospective employers that I can take care of business…and I CAN! On the first night of my first real job, cashier for Crafts, Etc., I was running a cash register on my own within an hour or two of arriving for work. I require very little training when I begin a new position, even when jumping from one career path to another.

I took a job as a bank teller just to make some money while taking night courses to get an Associate’s Degree. It was not what I had planned to do when I was in high school. My dream job was to become a graphic designer and work at an ad agency. With a new baby and new husband, whose employer had just filed bankruptcy, it was nice to know we’d have a steady income from somewhere.

One day, perusing the classifieds looking for my husband a job, I came across an ad for a position at an “advertising office.” I didn’t have my degree, but I saw this as a possible way to get my foot into the door for a career in advertising. That is close to an ad agency, right? I took a chance and sent in my resume. I accepted the job offer making over a dollar more an hour than I had been making at the bank as a teller. My training was to sit and listen to the Advertising Director make sales calls over the phone. I took to it naturally. Pretty soon, I was building my baby, a small start-up magazine called The Goat Rancher.  I did not know the first thing about goats, but I took the revenue of that magazine from about $500 a month in ad sales to over $10,000 a month in ad sales. I also took over making the cold calls and sending out media kits for the main publication of the advertising office.

For two weeks out of the month, I made calls to sell ads to national companies. For the other two weeks, I was the Production Coordinator for The Stockman Grass Farmer. As Advertising Production Coordinator, I was in my element. I sketched out ads on paper, helped clients come up with ad copy, talked with the typesetter about ad designs and handled all the proofing. I may not have been working for an ad agency, but I was helping my clients develop their marketing plans. I was on top of the world. Eventually, I was editing press releases for the Grazier’s Gear column and overseeing the yearly production and sales of the Buyer’s Guide. Coordinating these projects was a natural fit for me. I find happiness in being in charge of a project.

Six years later, the economy tanked, and I was looking for another job. I took a short stint at a local hunting and fishing publication, helping the company get their national ad sales going, but my heart was done with selling. The dream was tapping my shoulder. I wanted to be a graphic designer. I wanted to use my love of computers. Thanks to two very good friends, Sandra Goff, a graphic designer, and Jeff Wall, a pre-press supervisor, I had my chance. Sandra gave me a good reference and Jeff hired me on at the printing company as a pre-press operator with on-the-job training. How often does a person get a chance to accept a job without the skills to do the job? There was one skill I possessed that might be the most valuable to an employer: the skill to learn skills. There I learned Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark Xpress. Within three months, I was being taught imposition, a promotion. It is always better to get paid WHILE you are learning than to pay to learn.

Fast forward almost 10 years and you will see that I had that agency position. I have also worked as a designer for a daily newspaper and started a very modest freelance design business. I went back to school, taking online courses to earn my Bachelor’s Degree in May 2010. Today, I’m teaching myself web design. You can check out my first site using CSS here. Not bad for a little bank teller who had a baby at 19.

Penelope Trunk posted on her career advice blog that it is important to look as if you are on top of the world while you are looking for a job…even if you are not. I read that this morning and came home thinking a little comfort food would help perk me up to be more positive to continue the search. I have been down on myself because the job hunt has dragged on beyond the one year mark. I have let myself forget the awesome things I’ve accomplished in my life. This has given me a negative outlook…not good for job hunting.

So I go to the kitchen to make my favorite comfort food (other than ice cream), chicken and dumplings and realize I only have whole wheat flour. Whoever heard of making chicken and dumplings with whole wheat flour? Did I let that stop me…?

Chief Innovation Officer

In Career Moves on June 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I was talking with a client/business partner the other day about what my title in our up-shoot of a company should be. We were texting, really, but isn’t that about the same thing? I have designed the logo, am working on the web site, coming up with a social and online marketing plan and doing a bit of the marketing footwork also. I hope to be writing the script for our upcoming YouTube video and designing our ad for Coffee News this weekend. I am stoked and having the time of my life! Just trying to restrain myself from using too many exclamation points is about to drive me to drink…or ice cream.

I thought Director of Marketing had a nice ring and would look good on my resume. On the other hand, Director of Social Marketing has a forward thinking, in the “now” feel to it. Being a Social Network Marketer is quite the popular thing at the moment. I don’t want to look behind the times. He suggested Vice-President of Marketing. Nice, but a little ostentatious, don’t you think?

Then I was reading Advertising Age this weekend and saw the PERFECT title: Chief Innovation Officer! I love it. It’s a title that Interpublic just made up for Matt Freeman. Actually, the full title is Vice-Chairman, Global Chief Innovation Officer…even more impressive! (Geez, get it right, Ad Age.) I read it and thought, “That is SO me!”

Aside: For those who might complain that I write this blog just to toot my horn, I do. I am writing this for the selfish reasons of finding out what makes me special and brushing up on my writing skills. This is the easiest way to accumulate “published” writing examples for potential employers. They say write about topics on which you are an expert. I’m an expert on me. If you don’t like it, go get your own blog. Thank you.

Alana Hope Bowman

It describes me well, I think. I love brainstorming about everything, not just about a new creative way to get the attention of the public. I enjoy thinking of better ways to do things to improve functionality all the while conserving time and effort. Getting the most done in the least amount of time is my daily goal. I don’t just enjoy having new ideas, I also enjoy figuring out how to incorporate those new ideas into the regular routine. Penelope Trunk says to find something you like to do, that you are good at and that people are willing to pay you to do. Wouldn’t it be great if I could get paid to research, read and come up with better ways to do things? I have a huge stack of books sitting on my kitchen table that I’d love to be given TIME to read…books about marketing, design and technology, not romance novels or mysteries. These are books that I hope will make me better at what I do.

I just finished reading Seth Godin’s book Poke the Box. I would quote from it, but I immediately gave it to a friend to read. Basically, Seth says that being an innovator is what companies should look for in their employees. He was not just talking about people with lots of big ideas. He’s talking about the ones who have the ideas and take the steps to get the ideas in motion. See, it’s not enough just to be innovative in thought. You must move that passive innovation of thought into an action. If you never move your ideas into actions, your ideas aren’t worth a lot.

There are so many excellent quotes in that book, one that I can remember off the top of my head, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” Why is it that people can be so afraid of trying a new way or doing a new thing? So what if it doesn’t work like you thought it would. Tweak it! Keep working at it until it succeeds for you or move on to the next innovation. Don’t sit in your ditch doing the same thing the same way. Dictionary.com lists one antonym of innovation as “rut.” If it is broken, and most of the time you know it is, start coming up with ways to do it better.

I like the way Vanilla Ice put it, wearing his lovely tight-rolled pink pants, “If there was a problem Yo, I’ll solve it!”

He might not have been talking about innovation in business…

Ice for the Eskimos

In Career Moves on May 24, 2011 at 10:26 am

Today is my birthday. I am now 37. On my 37th birthday, I have decided to start a blog. I am going to call it “This could SO get me fired!” Why? Because I want to be absolutely honest and being honest can sometimes get a person fired.

I like being honest. I’ve been told it’s refreshing. Honesty is not always refreshing, however, to your current employer when that honesty involves revealing the feeling of being in a dead-end job. That is how I feel. I feel desperate to escape before my brain rots off its stem. There is no “up” in this position. There is no moving in any direction whatsoever. There is just right here.

Staying “right here” might be rewarding to some. It is safe. I don’t want safe. I want the opportunity to “one-up” myself each year. I want to push for a goal and go beyond it. I want to challenge myself with something new and just a little more difficult than the last thing. “I want to be somebody!” (I do believe that is a country song.) I will never be encouraged to be special in this firm. I will not be encouraged to take initiative and challenge the status quo.

Actually, I believe I already am “somebody.” I am darn special! I know that. I live in my head and hear my awesome thoughts and ideas daily. I want the opportunity for others to listen in and experience the “awesomeness” that is Alana. I want to be recognized for my special talents.

I can’t sit around and wait for someone to give me an opportunity. Most times, you make your own opportunity through hard work, elbow grease. If opportunity comes knocking, it’s because you carried it to your own door on your own back, up-hill, on a 107-degree August day in Mississippi. So…here I go picking up my opportunity and running with it.

I want to write. It really doesn’t matter what type of writing. I just want to do something I’ve had an inclination to do my whole life. I wrote my first story when I was only about 4 or 5. Don’t believe me? Just ask my Daddy. I’m sure he still has a copy of it stuck in the family Bible on the bookshelf in the hall. That is where it used to be, anyway. I couldn’t actually “write” back then. I dictated it, and Mama wrote it down. I took care of the illustration, of course. The heroine of the story was a little girl named Merigold, like the flower. She had a garden. That is all I remember. Give me a break! Not like it was on the New York Times Best Sellers list!

In my pre-teen years, I wrote long, LONG letters to relatives and friends. Letters…you know those things that involved paper, pens and a stamp? I also wrote in my journals back then. I still journal. When I turn 57, I will probably think last week’s journal entry is just as silly as those I wrote at 16. Silly yet filled with insight into what makes up Alana…sugar and spice and everything nice and maybe a puppy dog tail or two for good measure.

English Comp was a pure delight. Up to that point, most of my “real” writing had been research papers, figuring out how to regurgitate another’s words to avoid plagiarism. Research papers were the bane of my existence. They gave me nightmares and cold sweats. How I did dread the yearly term paper. Just the site of index cards made me want to run screaming in terror. Granted, I never made less than a B grade on one my whole life. Slaying the dragon does not necessarily make it any less scary.

So these two things I know: 1) My career is not going to progress in my current location and 2) I would like to do more writing. The next reasonable step would be to find a new job. Find a job that involves using my brain (creativity), offers ways to advance in my career and involves more writing. Bingo! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! I just finished my Bachelor’s Degree. I am extremely bright and resourceful. I am a hard-working perfectionist. I even own my own copy of the 2009 AP Stylebook. This should be a snap!

No.

It is not a snap. I began looking for a new job with the above potential back in May of 2010, when I earned my degree. How am I doing? Ohhhh…resumes sent – about 10, interviews – 3, job offers – 0. Let me put that in another perspective. Before I earned my degree, if I interviewed for a job, I was almost always offered the job. Don’t ask me why. I already told you I am awesome.

Someone once told me I could sell ice to an Eskimo if I tried. Up until this past year, I’ve always felt I did a pretty good job at selling myself, my abilities as an employee to a prospective employer. Today, I am not so sure. Is it the job market? Is it the fact that I’m looking for jobs that pay more than $35,000 a year now? What is different?

I am still a perfectionist. I am still a gem of an employee. I can still work without supervision all the live-long day. I get excited about my accomplishments and will do back flips for a “good job!” from a supervisor. I excel rather than crack under pressure. I am organized, and I love to cross-train in different departments. Not only that, today, a mistake has me committing to doing better next time rather than bringing me to tears! (Big accomplishment, by the way.)

None of these Eskimos have wanted my ice! …and it’s damn good ice!

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