Category Archives: Author: BJ

BJ’s blogs

You Don’t Intimidate Me!

At least that is what I told myself before attempting to unclog the vacuum hose on my 8-year-old vacuum cleaner.

Recently, every time I attempted to vacuum, terrorizing the dogs along the way, the vacuum rollers would simultaneously collect and throw down the collections in neat little piles on the carpet.  This went on for a couple of weeks, until I finally gave up – it had lost suction.  It was dead to me, and couldn’t be fixed; at least that is what I told myself.  I didn’t have time to fool with it anyway, but in my heart, I knew.

Meanwhile, I dug out my 20-year-old vacuum, which was also broken, to clean up the surface dirt – no roller brush action going on with this one!  I found a broom works quite nicely as well.  But, eventually, Spring came, and like so many of us, I got the itch to really spring clean.  And the only way the carpet was going to get that spring clean feel, was to deep clean vacuum, so I had no choice … either purchase a new vacuum (I have my eye on that Shark), or fix the monster.  Unemployed workers don’t just go out and buy new vacuum cleaners, so I had to gird myself (isn’t gird a great word?) to just do it!  How hard could it be?

I realized immediately just how hard it COULD be.  As I awkwardly hefted the monster onto the kitchen island to work on it without back-breaking contortions (yet another reason), I scraped the skin off a finger, hit that ‘not-so-funny spot’ on my elbow, and somehow disengaged the buildup of dirt from the roller-well onto the kitchen floor.   So, I paused to ask myself, “do I really want to do this?”  I realized if I stopped now, I still had to get it off the counter and onto the floor again, so as far as I was concerned, I’d reached the point of no return!  After a deep breath and a few words of reward (yes reward!) to myself for getting this far, on to the next step – find a screwdriver.

The good news is, like many of us, I keep a screwdriver handy in the catchall drawer in the kitchen.  All I had to do then was locate the screws to remove the bottom roller plate and on I go.  That was an easy enough task, removing four screws, so the rest should be easy; or so I thought.  As I gently pulled the plate away from the bottom, I heard a ‘snap’ and a quiet ‘tink’ as something broke away and on to the floor.  “OMG” I say to myself, “what was that? Lord, I just hope I can get this thing back together enough to get it to the repair shop!”  What repair shop, I don’t know, because I haven’t seen a repair shop for anything in years!  I have no choice but to continue on.  Dang this throw-away society!

After a quick dig through the first mess, I find a very small piece of plastic that looked like it was a match for one of the screws.  So I attempted to refit it to the part (?) where the screw screws in, but it would not stick.  I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  I pondered on it for a moment, thinking I could glue it back on, but the thing was so small, I was sure it would get clogged with glue, and at worst permanently secure the screw, which I was positive would need to be removed in the future.  Ah well, there were three more screws to hold it on, so I tossed the whatchamacallit in the catchall drawer, and moved on.

Now the screws are out, the plate is off, and the roller is hanging on by a thick rubber band.  I must remove the roller to get to the suction hole that is, I see, clogged with dog hair, a lot of dog hair and some unknown pieces of floor crud.  I’m oddly drawn to discover what that floor crud is, and wonder how did it get on the floor in the first place … hmmm.  But, I’m getting close now, and I decide to save that adventure for another blog.  What’s next?

I must find something to dislodge the backup.  I quickly decide on my dryer brush to get the job done – and it does; at least for the first few inches, as the brush won’t curl around the bend in the hose on the back.  Stepping back to get a good look at my work so far, I realize with a slight thrill, I’m close!  I will not let this monster get the better of me!   So think, woman, think!  Ah!

If I cannot reach the clog with the dryer brush, perhaps a hanger will do the trick!  I get the hanger, unwind it, straighten it out, and gently snake it through the hose, moving back and forth to try and snag whatever is clogging the hose.  A bit of dirt comes out, but I can tell from the movement of the hose, it is not getting the worst of it, and if I continue, I’m afraid I’ll damage the hose.  Ugh!  “I’ve come so far,” I think to myself.  “Now what?”

Now I get my older vacuum cleaner and try to vacuum out the clog.  I wheel the green monster (it is green) into the kitchen, pop off the nozzle, and onto the clogged hose.  It wasn’t a perfect fit, but it was enough to create a seal to suction out the remainder of the clog.  Voila, I’m victorious!

All that is left is to reseat the roller and reattach the plate.  Uh, uh, uh, not so fast!  As I reattach the plate, another ‘snap’ and ‘tink’; you’ve got to be kidding!  Yet another whatchamacallit has broken off, leaving another orphaned screw.  What now?  I need that screw to secure the front, so I attempt to screw it in, but no grip – it is too short.  Yet again, I step back, remain calm, and ponder.  I know, I’ll use one of those pointy screws that is a bit longer, and so I do, and so it works.

With renewed energy from a job well and nearly done, I easily hoist the vacuum off the counter and onto the floor, ready to terrorize the hounds once again!

Note to self:  believe in myself from the start; when things get tough, get creative; and more importantly, don’t give up!

Thanks for listening.

Daily Practicum for the Unemployed: Appreciate Our References

When was the last time you checked in with your professional references?  Regardless of your employment status, we need to keep in touch with the people who impact our careers – our lives.  If they are not friends, they are at least good contacts.  I love reaching out to my references throughout the year.  I consider them friends, and I am grateful for their efforts on my behalf.  Perhaps I can be of assistance to them as a way of showing my gratitude.

So, today’s activity is to reach out to your professional references.  Ask them how they are doing and offer your assistance.  Unemployed or employed, it is a nice break in the day and a great way to lay down tracks to keep moving forward.

Believe in yourself, and thanks for ‘listening in’.

ATTN HORSE LOVERS – URGENT! 

I ask you to please contact your state senator if s/he is on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and ask him/her to vote “YES” for the amendment to defund the opening and inspection of horse slaughter plants on U.S. soil.  I’ve researched the pros and cons for horse slaughter, and I recommend against it.  In the past, I thought horse slaughter was a humane way of managing the huge number of neglected and abused horses in the U.S., but I was wrong.  Horse slaughter only encourages breeders to produce more horses, creating even more cases of neglect and abuse, justifying offshoot industries that would do the same.  We need to discourage indiscriminate breeding that would produce throw-away horses and destroy bloodlines.  Breeders and all horse owners are responsible for the humane treatment and euthanasia of their animals, not taxpayers.  And that is what would happen if we ignore this vote.  Every US taxpayer would be condoning and supporting horse slaughter if we fund horse slaughterhouse inspections.

The amendment It is expected to be up for a vote with the Senate Appropriations Committee in May, so quick action is necessary; please contact your senator now.

Meanwhile, we need to ensure a complete ban on domestic horse slaughter and the export of their meat to other countries to safeguard the future of our pets and our food sources.  Please call or email your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, H.R. 1942/S.1214You can find additional details on the SAFE Act here.

Senate Appropriations Committee members are from these states: 

1.       Alabama

2.       Alaska

3.       Arkansas

4.       California

5.       Connecticut

6.       Delaware

7.       Hawaii

8.       Illinois

9.       Kansas

10.   Kentucky

11.   Louisiana

12.   Maine

13.   Maryland

14.   Mississippi

15.   Missouri

16.   Montana

17.   New Hampshire

18.   New Mexico

19.   North Dakota

20.   Oklahoma

21.   Oregon

22.   Rhode Island

23.   South Carolina

24.   Tennessee

25.   Vermont

26.   Washington

27.   West Virginia

28.   Wisconsin

Mary Nash’s Horse Slaughter Website

Habitat for Horses:  Slaughterhouses

Horse Fund Organization

Vets for Equine Welfare

Animal Welfare Institute

Watch the SAC calendar

Daily Practicum for the Unemployed: Life Reimagined

This is a great program provided by Life Reimagined through AARP. I strongly encourage you to consider joining AARP to access this and many other programs that can help provide direction in your life, especially if you’ve been unemployed for a long time.  If you need financial assistance, contact the AARP Foundation first.

Life Reimagined helps us make better decisions about relationships, work, purpose, and our general well-being.  You could join them directly for a fee, but your best bet is to join the AARP first to gain access to other programs and discounts.  Either way, the program takes you through a decision-making and exercise process, one step at a time. 

I recently started the program, Get an Edge in Your Job Search, and it provided access to an abbreviated version of the Strong Interest Inventory.  This tool enables a person to compare their interests (strong interests) to others who have high job satisfaction in their field.  For example, if I am someone who likes research, analyzing, and calculating, I may be a good candidate for a job in science.  If I really prefer writing, design, and helping others, I’d probably be a good candidate for a job in communications.  There are additional tools as well, so I’ll be going back to complete them soon.

Combined with new techniques in neuroscience, these are powerful tools, so please give Life Reimagined through AARP a try.

Life Reimagined Institute

Photo courtesy of Modern Farmer, Picturing Women Farmers by Audra Mulkern

Daily Practicum for the Unemployed: Trust Building as a Job Applicant

Trust is an important part of our lives, including at work.  We need to be able to depend on each other to be successful.  Recently, I reviewed a course on Lynda.com, Building Trust, by Brenda Bailey-Hughes of Indiana University, to check out new material, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The presenter suggested an exercise, which I pass along to you here; write an action plan to build trust. 

In the case of job hunting, the plan is to establish the beginnings of trust during the interview.  We can do this by being prepared to present business cases that support our qualifications and professional experience. 

Of course, it goes without saying, but I will, to:

  1. Be honest on our resumes.
  2. Demonstrate honesty during the interview, especially when it comes to weaknesses and responsibility for failures that show how you’ve grown and learned from the experience.
  3. Present a demeanor that shows you are dependable – despite what you see on the tube, shenanigans are not the order of the day.

Back to the script.  It should be tailored to the job requirements.  If the posting indicates the applicant needs to be ‘quick on their feet’ or ‘tech savvy’, this indicates the need for urgency and ability to make decisions as well as to work with technological tools.  It does not necessarily indicate you need to be an IT guru or leader. 

A good business case example for the script if you were in manufacturing (this is also a good answer to the question, what did you do at ABC company?):   I was accountable for quality control on the first assembly line, ensuring defects were caught before they arrived at final assembly.  I was required to safely operate the MAG54 punch and post unit by ACME company.  I had X number of defects pass through my line in five years, and I received a Quality Award for my performance.

This may be an idea for a sales job:  Follow-up customer service was my primary responsibility with ABC company, and I was required to ensure all customer complaints were resolved before final billing.  ABC trusted me to make decisions to resolve issues quickly.  I had to work with the IT department on a daily basis at times to keep on top of installations and updates and explain these to the customer. 

The idea is to be specific to their requirements.  As you move through each new script, customized for each job interview, you will find just how qualified you are for the job, gaining confidence in yourself and the ability to sell yourself at any interview.

How to Get Your Job Application Noticed Every Time

If You Want A Great Job, Tell a Great Story

Daily Practicum for the Unemployed: Acknowledging Grief

bench under treeI think it fair to say that we get angry and sometimes depressed if we are unemployed.  Maybe we get angry and not depressed, but we do experience a variety of emotions for obvious reasons.  For myself, I noticed I was angry and did nothing; I denied my anger and as a result, I was easily agitated.  This did nothing to help me focus on job hunting; and though I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere with this frame of mind, I couldn’t just stop being angry.  And then it came to me – I was grieving!  I was grieving the loss of my job.

According to Kubler-Ross (in her later years) and others in her field, we can experience grief in response to any great loss and uncertain situations, and that grief is a very personal process.  I believe unemployment, especially long-term unemployment fits the situation.  And I think the key to moving forward is to acknowledge and permit oneself to grieve.    

Once I allowed myself time to grieve, I wanted to take the next step – outside my grief; just one step.  For me, the next step was to share my experiences and read about others in similar situations.  Following that, I started this blog.   With every step I took, I felt more confident in myself and my abilities to take the next step, to define my future.  What is your next step? 

If you are stuck, consider career counseling or psychological counseling even.  Sometimes, we need a new perspective to be able to see the path ahead.   

Have a great day, and please feel free to share!

http://www.ekrfoundation.org/five-stages-of-grief/

http://www.refugeingrief.com/

http://www.ncda.org/

http://www.nbcc.org/counselorfind

https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/index.aspx

http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/

Affordable Teeth Cleaning

Healthy teeth and mouth are critical to our well-being, so why is it we spend so little time on our oral healthcare compared to the rest of our body?  Think of it – the first contact anything we eat has with our body is our teeth and tongue.  The older we get, the less sensitive our tongue becomes, the dryer our mouth, and the faster plaque and tartar build up.  Our smile is also a major factor in a first impression – and what do people see when we smile?

Just like the rest of our bodies, the simplest approach to good health is preventive measures.  Getting our teeth cleaned twice a year is so worth it.  Not only is the cost a great value compared to dental procedures, it serves as a dental checkup, much like an annual physical.  The average cleaning costs around $75 without insurance.  Not a bad investment, really; but sometimes even this is out of reach.

When the economy dropped through the basement, and I lost my job, I spoke to my dentist’s accountant about discounts, and I was able to save $35 on teeth cleaning.  She also recommended 0% financing on any procedures I needed, and the use of coupons for future X-Rays – yep, my dentist issues coupons in some of the community money saver packets.  I went with the cleaning discount and the X-Ray coupon, but I’m looking for a good dental plan to manage anything more complicated than a teeth cleaning.

One approach I like is to use my university dental college.  When I was younger and just making ends meet, I contacted my state university’s dental college.  Like many colleges, they have community outreach programs, and I was able to get a much needed crown for a huge discount.  I still have that crown after 30 years – most dentists today are quite impressed with the workmanship, and there are no signs of needing a replacement to this day.  I think I’ll give them a call.

There are web sites out there to help me find a good dental plan when I’m ready. Of course, during open enrollment, I may be able to find a dental plan on my state’s healthcare.gov site.  But I want a plan now, so I’ll visit a few of the clearing house type sites to find a few to review.  I listed some of these links in the ‘links’ section below for your consideration. 

As always, I asked my dentist what health plans they accept, and what they found to be the best plans.  Keep in mind, they probably like plans that reimburse more, but cost me more as well, but they will be able to advise you.  In the end, I am responsible for the choice I make.  I must compare plans and costs based on what I can afford and my dental health.

The American Dental Association is a great place to get information about a ‘healthy mouth’ as well as how to find a dentist.

Have a great day!

Recommended Reading:

Mouth Healthy, 40-60

Mouth Healthy Over 60

AARP Dental Insurance

Periodontal Disease and Heart Health

Dental Plans

eHealth Insurance

1Dental.com

Daily Practicum for the Unemployed: Early Morning Odd Jobs

Start getting up earlier, at least three days a week.  Get a jump on the day and tackle those few odd jobs needing to get done.  It is an accomplishment.  Being unemployed can get us down, so we need to do whatever it takes to get us up, even if for only a short time or to generate more good mojo.  The more mojo, the better!

What odd jobs do you like to tackle in the early morning hours?

Fighting Canine Cancer

Someone asked me about the holistic medications I’m giving my whippet.  You see, my little girl has cancer, and we’ve been fighting her cancer for four months now. 

We found the cancer following the review of an X-ray of her upper and lower trunk.  She’d had a cough for a few weeks, and she was getting ready to undergo a dental cleaning, so I insisted the vet do an X-ray examination first, before he stuck a tube down her throat.  He identified a mass, and following an ultrasound on the same day, she was diagnosed with a type of lymphoma or sarcoma masses in her abdomen and on the outside of her lungs. 

We needed a more definitive ID, so we followed up with a fine-needle aspiration of the cancer site in her abdomen.  The oncologist said it was a type of mast cell tumor.  We could not definitively identify the type of mast cell as it was very dense, and it was difficult to aspirate a large enough sample.  Her oncologist and our family vet do not believe it is in her best interest to remove the tumors or to complete a more invasive biopsy procedure due to her age; she is 16 and has a heart murmur.

The only treatment for inoperative stage 4 mast cell cancer at this time is chemotherapy, and her oncologist recommended Palladia, a very aggressive antineoplastic for dogs.   I opted out of this as the positive response to the drug is less than 38% and the end result would most likely be a short extension of her life, not a cure.  The side effects alone could kill her.  So, we moved on to alternative medicines.

Currently, we are working with a veterinarian who specializes only in homeopathic regimens.  I can tell you that I am pleased with the results so far, but I’m not sure it is a cure as much as it is a way to support a quality of life while she is here on this earth.  I’m reserving judgement.

At this point in her homeopathic regimen, her coughing has subsided, she no longer gets yeast infections, she still has an appetite, and she still runs outside.  We have other issues to deal with, including Degenerative Myelopathy aggravated by arthritis, but she is still relatively active and responsive.  I credit the homeopathic medications for this.

If your pet has cancer, I would recommend consideration of holistic medicines either as an alternative when mainstream treatments won’t work, or as a supportive regimen.  Either way, find a veterinarian who specializes in the field.   Your team should include an oncologist as well as a vet who specializes in internal medicine.  

Meanwhile, education is critical, so learn how to help your dog FIGHT CANCER:

Additional reading:  In Honor of My Brother

Please feel free to post your thoughts or ask questions here.

Frustration-Free Job Postings … A Myth?

Job SeekerWhen it comes to hiring, it is important to understand and translate the necessary KSAs into a job posting.  This is more important than using keywords to create the meta tags to find resumes that may match.  My reasoning is that if we create better job postings, we will be able to accurately identify people with the KSAs we need.  My assumption is the goal is to find the best match as quickly as possible without frustration.  I don’t focus on the best talent.  There are lots of people out there who can fit the job; besides, in many cases we can’t afford the best talent.

Some think we do that now, but by far the majority of job postings still use a quick list of responsibilities and duties alone or with very little skill bullets or situational details.  If we want the best fit, we exclude a large population.  I don’t propose to remove these areas, rather I propose we get better at detailing them.  I also propose removing preferred qualifications in favor of the actual qualifications.  We use the term ‘preferred’ without qualifying what that means, creating ambiguity.  As a result, we are overwhelmed with resumes that have very little to do with the jobs we post, and that is frustrating for everyone on both sides of the process.

What about job titles?  We change job titles like changing shirts.  I don’t think we do this to get more closely aligned with the actual job, we do this to compete with other job postings, but is it working?  How are applicants supposed to find the job if we keep changing job titles? I’m confused about the logic here; it does not make sense to me.

Writing good job descriptions takes time and effort, but it is not difficult.  The ideal job posting includes lots of action words and situational details.  In the past, I inherited job descriptions that had been rehashed for years.  They included a job title and a list of responsibilities and duties.  The title often changed, but the content did not; at least not enough to reflect the job at that point in time.

Aside from a formal job analysis with the employee, I applied a bit of a project management approach to creating a job posting that works well:  identify the stakeholders, the tools and tasks used on the job, the processes and procedures required of the job, and finally the environmental factors – situational details.  Presenting the job description in this manner helps applicants to quickly and more accurately gauge their fit.  It reduces frustration for both sides, I think.

My job posting template includes the job title, company information and culture, job environment, stakeholders, tools (all of them), tasks required to be completed along with ‘other’ tasks as required, required processes (not procedures), minimum (forget preferred) professional credentials, compensation range depending on experience, and finally benefits.