Perception is reality

This last week my family was given the Titanic of all playground sets. The behemoth had to have weight thousands of pounds and was put together with enough hardware to keep it together during a level 5 hurricane. My family was looking for a playground set for a while and was happy to take this off our friends hands. The take down and set up included several days of kicking, yelling, bruised knuckles and an occasional “Come on” screamed at the various beams of wood.

See full size image

Finally, after several days we succeeded in putting the playground together.  I turned around to let the kids jump on the swings and the new slide  only to see my kids lower themselves into animals as they tussled and fought to be the first child down the slide. I thought how crazy their actions were for the situation, had they thought about it for a few seconds, no one ever cares nor remembers who was the first person on the monkey bar, slide or swing. I just had to laugh.

My oldest daughter who was third down the slide sat dejectedly on the slide and sulked about being third not first. I talked to her and told her to get over the slide. I didn’t want it to ruin her whole play experience. Having to wait 7 seconds while the boys went down the slide first should not ruin her moment, life, play time.

I wonder how many time we are blinded by what we feel is unfair or unjust situation and miss many great opportunities. I know my daughter missed about twenty minutes of play time she will never get back because she felt slighted that she was not the first person down the slide. None of that matters now 1 week later.  Though, sometimes it’s easier said than done when we talk about emotions.

No sense in wasting time for things that in the end do not better you or make you happy. I have never met a content happy person who focuses on what didn’t happen as opposed to what did happen that was beneficial. 

I had a day to remember yesterday.  I could focus on: My car got a flat tire and the tire shop took two hours to put on my spare and send me to another tire store. I had to go back into the dentist because the filling they did last week is killing me and they had to redo some work. Perhaps I could talk about  the blood drive I went to that was so backed up it took me two hours to get finished. I finally got home at 9 pm tired and beat.

What I saw was:  Brent Bowen, a good friend, took time to pick me up and drop me off at the tire shop to get my car.  The company where I had to take my flat tire fixed me up and did it all while remembering my name from my recent visit six weeks ago. The blood drive netted 57 pints of blood for the Red Cross and the hospital systems in Atlanta, our goal had been 48. I was able to stay up and spend time with my wife watching a movie.

I guess in the end I was truly blessed to see that yesterday for what it was, good times.

Advertisements

How do I ask for the Money?

Recently a very good friend of mine interviewed for an internal position with his company. He called me shortly after the interview and said he was verbally all but offered the job. He was excited about the promotion but when the Director mentioned the change in salary, my friend was disappointed as he was looking for a higher rate of increase.  When we discussed the salary range offered,  the salary being mentioned was on the bottom of the range  and he felt he was being undervalued.

He  had decided  he was going to negotiate but wait until after the offer was made. I quickly advised him to negotiate before any offer was extended.

Ideally when an offer is made you should already know at what rate the offer is going to made or at least fairly close. You will want to have a firm understand of their ability/range to make an offer and they want to  know your salary expectations.  That will insure a high rate of success for the offer to be received favorably and then accepted. Knowing the salary facts applies to both candidates and hiring people.  I never like to guess.  Before the formal offer is extended you can have a conversation and talk about your recent salary history and expectations without you sounding like a money grubber. After the offer is presented and negotiations have begun there are battle lines being drown as the tone tends to get more serious.

As an Account Executive at Matrix I like to have conversations with my clients all the way up to the offer. I have found people are more receptive to listen and talk with an open mind before everything is set in stone.  I like to get the candidates to agree in principle to a salary and the hiring manager’s to agree hopefully to the same number.

Let me list why negotiations after the offer has been presented is less likely to be changed.

1. Affectively when you look to negotiate after an offer is made you are effectively turning down one offer in the hope for another offer. Once you get into this area the client can do three things.

A. Pull the offer – I have seen it happen

B. Decline negotiations – The offer is what it is

C. Negotiate – but at what costs

2. I see some clients that feel some rejection upon a start for negotiations after they have worked hard for an offer. Hiring Managers are emotional involved in the process. You never want to start a position off on the wrong foot. 

3. Many people have touched the offer to get it to you.  The Manager tells the Director she has found the right candidate, you.  The Director talks to the VP and gets the okay. The  Director tells the Manager to get with HR and get an offer together. The Manager and the HR rep get together to discuss the offer then the HR rep sends it to the VP to get it signed off on.  Finally the HR Rep sends it to the Manager so she can get it to you. The Manager has to go through the entire process again if there are negotiations after the offer.

I am a big fan that if you like the position and opportunity then you can have a discussion before the offer is made. At all times remember to focus on the job not the salary.

I like to say something  like this. ” I want you to know that I am very interested in the position. I can see my self working at (company name) with you and your team. I am interested in moving forward in the process. What is the next step?”

Hiring Manager “We need to get together with my Director and HR and put together an offer.”

Me ” That is great news. I am really excited about the possibility of working with you. Should I expect a call from HR to discuss the benefits, salary? Or is it fine to discuss it with you?”

I opened the door very casually about the salary and benefits.

Your discussion may not change the offer but it can’t hurt to have a discussion before the actual offer is made so the respective parties can be on the same page. Always focus on the career and opportunity and you will be able to have a chance to communicate your thoughts effectively and openly.

Good Luck

Matt Cheek

Life is like a bungee cord.

Like most high school teenagers during the summer, I looked for ways to earn extra money. I worked a cabinet shop and learned the value of shutting saws down before placing a hand on one, I worked concert security and enjoyed the pre-show rehearsal of some great bands (the one-armed drummer for Def Leppard is awesome!), and the most interesting job I had during my high school summers was as a Jump Master at a bungee jumping tower.

The tower was a metal structure that grew 90 feet in the air. To reach the jumping platform you had to climb the hundred, or so, steps to reach the top of the four jump platforms. Once you reached the top, the flooring was a metal mesh grating that allowed those on top of the platform to view the ground 90 feet below. It was a very intimidating sight the first time on top and many people refused to look down. I saw all kinds of people jump from a brave 5 year-old who jumped 5 times, to large tough men who screamed like 5 year-olds when they jumped!!

One of the most interesting things about bungee cords are that they are not large individual cords. The bungee cords are millions of small elastic bands weaved together around longer strands. Each band is weaved, for strength and elasticity, such that if the individual band is stressed to the point of breaking and some of the bands actually break, you are in no danger of falling. You can lose thousands of bands before any potential danger occurs. We would take the two broken ends and tie them back together at the end of everyday. It would not be unusual to have 30-40 bands broken each night after the jumps. We were required to inspect each cord and document what we had done to make it “jump ready” the following day.

Depending on the weight of the person, we had five different cords to use. I usually jumped on a #4 cord that allowed good bounce and stretch and was appropriate for my weight. A few times, I used a #5 cord but the strength was too strong and would not allow for flips and I had a decreased range of motion. The other cords we not sufficient for my weight.

As we go through life, we add another layer of elastic bands that help strengthen the impact from a our choices. We are a combination of all the activities, thoughts, trials, tribulations, opportunities and choices that are weaved together to make us who we are today. Throughout our lives we have the opportunity to experience LIFE at its fullest and every experience is worthwhile and can add to our bands if we learn from it. 

There are times that we have to sit back at the end of the day and tie a few strings together that broke during the day. Tomorrow we jump again, so we need to have our cords tied and ready to perform. If we neglect our cord and it really starts to look ragged and not functioning properly, we can get caught unprepared for a major trial or fall.

So the next time you experience the trial of losing a job or blowing the interview, or experience the blessing of a new birth in the family, remember your cords, your lifelines, and be ready make sure they are ready to keep you from falling too hard. At the end of the day, take a few minutes and look at your cords, then tie broken bands back together and make yourself stronger for the following day and go ENJOY THE JUMP.

Starbucks coffee and The Golden Rule

I recently walked into a Target super store. Like the store always clean and friendly. While I was walking in the store this gentleman walking beside me was holding a cup of Starbucks coffee, Latte, mochachino or whatever, like it was the Holy Grail. He was so very careful with protecting his cup to make sure nothing happened to his $5 cup of jubilus flavors. I thought in my mind,  people are going to laugh and snicker at us in twenty years about our love for coffee and the ever-present Starbucks. I don’t even like coffee but you know we all will be lumped in. Like everyone in the 80’s had bad hair. Mullets in 9th grade are the exception though. 🙂

I think sometimes we put too much importance on things that seem good and worthwhile but do not add intrinsic value.

A few different things come to mind in recruiting and interviewing.

1. Candidates relating experience in interviews that do not help the interviewer decide if they are a good candidate. Nice story though.

2. Asking questions in an interview that do not apply to their character or professional experience. ex. Questions out of a technical book that have no bearing on the technical expertise. I do not remember the books from my econ class in college.

3. Taking the candidate to lunch to see how they interact at lunch. I have never had an offer taken away from a lunch because they slurped their spaghetti. Now if you use the lunch to get to know them on a more personal level, I like this.

4. Overstating the level of competence of the technical group.  Basically unless the candidate can walk on water, they are not interested and if they can walk on water, they still need to juggle while playing hopscotch. Right….

5. Candidates like to brush off relevant experience. If I had a nickel for every time I have heard ” No, not that experience but I can learn it quickly.” I could buy 2-3 gallons of gas. 😦

I know you are not supposed to talk about religion in the workplace, a no-no but I think the “Golden Rule” can really help out a lot. Let’s treat others how we like to be treated-fairly, justly and put aside the irrelevant.

Now let’s break some bread and have a non-fat dirty chi latte and laugh at ourselves.

Use it or Lose it

I often talk to clients and when they say they need to hire a candidate they inevitably tell me they need a candidate who can hit the ground running. With the limit on money and resources they need someone who can do the required tasks with minimal supervision.

I often say the that the perfect candidate is the one that just left. That is the candidate that can perform the tasks at 100%.

Over the years I have started to see that getting the person that closest resembles the job description may not always be the best choice. The best choice maybe a technically strong, great communicator with initiative that has to something to gain by choosing the company.

I know that may sound backwards.  The benefit needs to be mutually beneficial.  A win for both employee and employer. what happens in 12-18 months passes and the person does not feel that they have a place to grow and flourish. They start looking for another opportunity.

I had a candidate yesterday that turned down the job because it was a lateral move. He was looking to improve his skills. He was looking for the opportunity to stretch his technical skills.

He did not want to lose the technical skills he had so hard to gain. His technical skills would start to dwindle.

I like to work out but I do not like to work out on “Legs” day. I know that since I do not squat, lunge, or leg press that often that when I do my muscles have started to lose some of their strength.  My muscles have started shrink or have gone into a basis muscle atrophy.

Per Wikipedia when you muscles go into atrophy it “decreases quality of life as the sufferer becomes unable to do certain tasks or worsen the risks of accidents while performing those”. Those things you do not use you lose.

We have all heard the saying “use it or lose it”.

That saying applies in muscles and knowledge. When looking for that right candidate you can think about today but make sure the long-term benefit will be a good fit as well.

Deja Vu

I had posted yesterday how I had surprised myself by running a distance almost twice as far as I had run in a long time.  The tough thing about learning how far you can take yourself makes it tough to do anything less than your previous best. You are setting yourself up for failure. You are quite right.

This morning I thought to myself I need to get after it and do something really hard at the gym. I thought about biking the 25 miles I need to go on an Olympic distance triathlon. In the end I decided that I was going to do a sprint Triathlon in the gym.

I decided to skip the swimming until the end because the is nothing worse than sweating after you have gotten out of a chlorinated pool. My skin feels nasty (did I just write that). anyway I started off on the bike and just nailed it. I mean I was Lance Armstrong except for the endorsements and the biker shorts, not my style. I am sure all the people at the gym are thankful for me sans biker shorts.

Anyway, I get off the bike and I start to run. It takes my legs a few moments to make the transition from running to biking. So I started off a little slow or in my case slower than usual. I quickly jumped my speed and initially felt well.

After my first mile I start to feel things in my legs. Phantom pains I would say. A tightening of  my muscle here, a cramp in my foot there. The doubt started to creep inside my head.

“You have done 12 miles on the bike it is okay to rest. No one will care if you stop. I mean you look like you have worked hard just ease up a bit.”

I kept running though. “I can’t quit” I thought “I just wrote the dumb blog post about not quitting. At that point I wish I had not written that post.”

I had the toughest time between 1-2 miles.  By the time I reached 2.5 miles I was so determined. In fact I cranked the speed up on the treadmill. My last lap I put my sweat rag over the time and count in my head down from 120 to 1 just to make sure I was going to finish and finish strong. I wanted to crank it  up really for two reason.

1. Finish strong. Always finish strong. Lance Armstrong can have livestrong I am finish strong . Rubber arm bands to come out soon at an Ace Hardware near you. j/k 🙂

2. The faster you finish the faster you can stop RUNNING. 🙂

So I finished in a happy 26 minutes.

Next on to my best and most favorite part of the triathlon, the swim. I mean it is not hard for me I grew up with a pool in Phoenix. I have flippers for feet, at size 14. I had a great first two lengths of the pool but by length 10 I was tired and it was starting to show. I know why they place the swim first in the triathlon, half the group in the race would drown because of fatigue. I finished the swim. I had done  a sprint  triathlon on an average Friday morning.

I finished my race and didn’t quit. I did that all before work. I am in the office by 8am. Good day here I come.

Deja vu  in the fact that two times in as many week, I have had some self-doubt, fatigue, self-pity and been able to push through it. I do not care what it is and how small the goal finish strong and carry your head high.

Good day here I come.

Some days You might just surprise yourself

I am not a runner. I was built for other activities. Mainly eating. I am very good at eating and I really enjoy it. I like trying new foods. I am constantly going to lunch with clients each day. I was tired of always picking my food. I know what your thinking, “Oh that is so terrible, You poor guy.” I agree with you, poor me.  I usually picked the same type of food and had almost no variety.

So about a year ago I started to tell the wait staff when they come by to pick my food for me. Don’t tell me what you pick for me but give me your favorite food. Their favorite dish they serve. I have had some great choices. I received a Mahi Mahi meal at The Cheesecake Factor that was one of the top five meals I have ever eaten.  Just two days I ate at Armondo’s Cuban restaurant and had Paellas de Mariscos  that had very chewy calamari. Yesterday was Bison at Ted’s Montana Grill, good food, service not so much.

 I hope you see that I enjoy the eats.

I needed a way to lose the calories from my eats so I trained and competed in a Sprint triathlon last year. I didn’t have the best time but I didn’t die and I beat the 76-year-old woman on the Huffy bike so that was good.

This year, and especially after this past Christmas, I needed a goal to shoot for. I decided that I was going to run the Jekyll Island Turtle Crawl International distance Triathlon. Which consists of 1 mile ocean swim, 25 mile bike ride and a 10K at the end for good measure.

I was okay with the swim, at my weight I float more than swim. I can ride like the wind on the bike, thought those iddy biddy seats leave A LOT of room for comfort. I know they make them small for less weight but at my size what is an extra 1.275 lbs. Give me the seat with Springs in it.

The problem with whole triathlon scenario is that I do not like to run. I have run and run and run before. I do not like it. I do not like it Sam I am. I do not like on a track, I do not like in the rain, I do not like in a gym, I do not like it Sam I am.

I have struggled with the running portion. I am trying to run 3.5 miles twice a week without stopping. I can do it but I talk myself out of it. So three weeks ago I said that I am going to run the 3.5 miles without stopping and you know what I did it. I ran 3.5 miles. In a blistering 30+/- minutes. Not a land speed record mind you but I think I can still beat the 76-year-old lady. No bets but I think.

Last week as I contemplated how far I had run I wondered. How far can I run until I have to stop, drop and curl up in the fetal position from cramps. I thought it a good idea at the time but really decided that I am good with 3.5 miles once I was into the run.

As I progressed in my run I eventually hit 3 miles and I was still feeling pretty good so I spontaneously turned right and headed down in front of the Home Depot to extend my run. I continued running and knew of another mile loop that could extend my run to 4.5 miles. Can you guess what happened at the end of 4.5 miles? For those playing along at home, if you said I kept running you are correct. If you said something different 10 push ups for negative thoughts.

So I chose a different path on my run and soon my run became a mission to see how far I could really run without stopping. Towards the end of the run I was just trying to extend my distance to the next street lamp. In fact I counted down from 8 to 1 to get to the corner and finish. It was a great run. I completed 6 miles in under an hour and had a huge personal success. By time I was done that 76-year-old lady was nowhere to be seen. She was probably already done and back to the gym resting but in my mind I had won.

Some days it pays to see what you can do, how far you can push it. You might just surprise yourself.

PS. I told this story to my friend Melanie. She had some of the same challenges running and said she had a mental block at 2 miles. We talked and she told me the next time she was going to run she was going to do three miles. Like  a good friend she reported back her success and told me on Tuesday that she completed 3 miles without stopping. Congrats Melanie

Good day, Good times.

String Cheese and Oreos

The new year is upon us. Out with 2009 and in with the 2010. I am happy to back to work so I can get some rest. With all the things that go on in the holidays I think it becomes more stressful than regular work.

The new year means going back to work and checking on the things you left undone or needed to complete from the Holidays. My cubemate came back to a little less than 400 unread emails. It took her a couple of days just to sort through the deluge of information and questions.

I struggle to remember what I need to do from yesterday.  You can ask my wife she has to even write me a detailed list for the grocery store because if not it is string cheese and Oreos for dinner

Imagine trying to remember where I had left off from 2-3 weeks ago. If you are looking to change careers or gain a new career, do not assume that people remember anyones status from December.

Now is the time to call, send emails, send up the flares.  Personal contact being the best. It’s easy to glance at an email and forget. It takes effort to talk. Start trying to touch base with everyone.

“Everyone” you ask.

“Everyone” I say.

I give you an example. I talk to people all day about positions and resumes. I had a candidate referred to me with great marketable skills.  I didn’t have anything for him then but I asked him to call me every week or two to check in and I would call him if anything popped up.

Long story short he doesn’t call and I forget. Several potential positions come and go that were potential positions of interest. I was invited to a Networking event two months later and guess who I run into, my candidate. I tell him to call me the next day. He doesn’t call, which baffles me, but I receive a job  for the exact skills he has and in the industry he just left.  I called him and we end up setting up an interview. None of that would have happened if we would not have talked the day before.

Timing is everything. Time to reach out. I know a lot of people do not want to bother their friends and acquaintances about their job search. I have never heard a friend say ” I am tired of trying to help my friend get  a job.” If they did they weren’t a  true friend. People understand the economic times.

Companies are hiring. The most recent jobless numbers are down. While we do not know all the factors, there are people getting hired and starting new positions right now.

While job boards are good the highest percentage of positions are filled through networking.

Good luck and go call someone.

Don’t hibernate your job search

Contrary to common belief the start of the Holiday season does not end all hiring until the second week in January.

I had asked a friend how her husband’s career search was coming. She stated ” We have given up and were waiting until the new year to start the search. Nothing happens during the Holiday’s.”

What! What what!! I would have said triple what but I think there is a trademark on that.

I told her that hiring does not stop at the end of the year. In fact some of my busiest weeks are in December. I am currently seeing an uptick in openings.

Last year I had a candidate who found a position for the Holiday season. She had done such a great job for them in the holiday season that they decided to kept her on and she is still there one year later.

I can go on about people I know who have achieved career zen in the Holiday season when other people picked up their toys and went home.

I will make my remarks specific to IT as most of the IT positions I deal with are in the Technology realm.

1. Projects slated to get completed this year maybe behind schedule and need a person to help them finish it before the end of the year. (I received two of these jobs this week.) I did have a client a hire a contractor from me. They extended the contract and now are making her a fulltime offer.

2. An organization has had a Developer or DBA opening during the year and they have to fill the position or they will lose the slot in their organization in  if it is not filled by the end of the year.

3. IT talent is very competitive. Even now I am seeing Great candidate receive multiple offers. Companies are looking for a jump in the company next year and are working to secure top candidates before early next year.

4. The company has had some attrition and they need to back fill the position.

5. The company is looking to upgrade their talent as they feel they can get some additional experience or knowledge from the marketplace. (I have two of these types of positions right now).

Unless you are a polar bear and can hibernate through the winter, now is a great time to be out there marketing yourself. I can’t guarantee you will find a job but you will be miles in front of the candidates who take the month of December off.

Tell me your thoughts.

themattcheek.wordpress.com

We need to remember the good things.

Economy, Politics, War, Pestilence, Cancer. Wonderful words to start of a blog. I think that each one of us can think specific things that are bad in the world. In fact if I asked you to name 5 things you could come up with 5 independent of mine above. It is easy to remember the tough times. What we need to do is remember the good times. There have been and still are good times.

I have had great things happen to me. I can always remember good things in my life, a birth of a child, marriage to my wife. Watching the Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl, twice even,  🙂 . Hanging out with my family  in Jackson Hole, at a restaurant, and playing on the grass with all of the kids in the extended family.  Going to a concert with my wife. Great times. Nothing can take these experiences from me. I cherish them.

But what about real life. What about today? It’s up to you.

My wife and I set our evenings by the activities of our kids or needs of our church. We have football practice, soccer practice, cub scouts, sports games, church activities for the kids.  Friday night is date night though, thank heavens. A night alone with my wife without the kids.  In all of the hustle and bustle of our family sometimes things slip through the cracks.

This past couple of weeks our basement has flooded twice. So when the rain threatened again a couple of weeks ago I decided to stay home to make sure my home didn’t float away.  After I worked outside to fix the drainage and tons of prayers from my family the basement was safe. We had a great day that day.  I could have focused on the rain or the loss of work by my working from home.  I didn’t, I was so happy my home didn’t flood. We can choose which way we see things, positive or negative.

Later on that afternoon my kids came home and my oldest son tried to get a drink out of the faucet. Guess what no water. I had forgotten to pay the water bill. By this time it was 5pm. I called and got the bill paid but they couldn’t get the water on until the next morning. Nice. Really nice. In the end all I could do was laugh. If that is the worst that happens I can live with that. I am sorry that is happened but my basement was dry.  That is a great thing.

In the end there are many people with worse things that happen to them. I have good health, a family that loves me and employment. There are several things to be thankful for.  Sit down and try to write 5 bad things as quickly as you can. Next write down 5 good things, see which one takes longer.

We have great medicine, travel availability, connectivity and opportunities. Man the opportunities are outstanding. 

 Have a great day today and if I don’t see you tomorrow have a great day tomorrow. I know I will because I can remember all of the good things that have happened to me in my life.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.