Category Archives: Work

On Consultants and Dread Pirates

Chances are you’ve either worked with a contractor, hired a contractor, or been a contractor yourself. Whenever I think about contractor/client relations I am reminded of Rob Reiner’s the Princess Bride.

Indigo Montoya and Westley
From unknown Tumblr site via Google Image Search

Each day for three years, the Dread Pirate Roberts would say the same thing to the only victim he had ever spared (and let work for him). “Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

I’ve heard almost the exact same exchange verbatim aimed at a contractor. Some clients are better than others and it’s hard to tell the employees from the contractors. More often than not, however, life resembles a Dilbert cartoon.

Dilbert Contractor Abuse
Dilbert from 4/14/06.

What’s the worst thing anyone has said to you or that’s ever happened to you as a contractor? Sound off in the comments below.

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Breathe Life Into Your Stale CV with Loft Resumes

A few months back I won a free résumé overhaul courtesy of WorkAwesome and Loft Resumes. As I’d been using the same boring, vanilla Microsoft Word template for the past six years I was long overdue for an update.

CV Thumbnail
If it looks like this was designed in Word 2003 that’s because it was.

After I won, Loft contacted me to congratulate me and got right to work. Their site claims it’s three steps from start to finish, but it’s a little more iterative than that.

Loft Resumes Process
Image courtesy of Loft Resumes

The process couldn’t have been smoother, however. Here’s how it really worked:

  1. I chose a design from their template library
  2. I sent them my old CV
  3. They sent me my old CV in the new template
  4. We discussed potential changes to my CV
  5. They made the proposed changes
  6. They sent me an updated copy of my CV
  7. We repeated steps 4-6 until I was satisfied
  8. They sent me the final product

Loft Resumes charges about $110 for a two page résumé. For your money you get your updated CV as both as a high resolution PDF suitable for printing and a low resolution PDF appropriate for posting on job sites or sending via email.

You also receive a cover letter template (available in both Microsoft Word and Apple Pages format) that matches the style of your CV. And, if you ever need Loft to update your résumé they’ll do it for a whopping $5.

Here’s the final version of my résumé.

Loft Resumes CV Final
Ahhhh, much better!

If you want to see what it looks like in greater detail you can view the full, low-res version here.

So, what did I think about working with Loft? The overall experience was great. Before this experience I’m not sure I would have shelled out a hundred bucks for to clean up my résumé. After all is said and done … I’m still not sure.

I’m extremely happy with the look and feel of my new CV, but I would have appreciated a bit more guidance around the actual writing of my résumé and not just the design if I were a paying customer.

Here’s some additional feedback:

Pros

  • Fast – I never waited more than 8 hours for an email response or update. I was pleased with how fast we went from initial redesign to finished product.
  • Excellent communication – All communication was handled in an extremely courteous and professional manner on their part.

Cons

  • None, really. Everything looks great and Loft’s customer service was exemplary.

Suggestions

  • Printing option – I would have paid extra for an option to print and ship my CV on some nice, high quality cardstock.
  • Matching business cards – It would be really cool to have some business cards to hand out that match my new CV.
  • Even more templates – The designs they already have a exceptional, but I’d love to see what else they can come up with.

So, what do you think? What would you pay for a more professional, modern-looking résumé? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

Covey’s Time Management Matrix Explained

At least once a week I explain Stephen Covey’s time management philosophy to someone. I’ve even written about elements of it here on slightly insightful.

Do it mañana

I keep coming back to Covey because his focus on roles and values resonates with me and I find it the best way of prioritizing my tasks.

Not everyone groks a mindmap, so when I explain Covey’s system to others I invariably end up drawing the four quadrants of the Time Management Matrix.

Time Management Matrix

Let me give you a brief overview of the four quadrants matrix. Look at the things you do. Are they important? If so, they belong in the top half of the matrix. If they’re not they go in the lower half. Are they urgent? If so they belong in the left half of the matrix. If not, they belong in the right hand side of the matrix.

Urgent and Important

Quadrant 1

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that the majority of us spend most (if not all) of our time here. We’re busy putting out fires and dealing with crises.

It’s only natural that some of your actions will fall into Quadrant 1. Unless you love ulcers though, you really don’t want to spend most of your time here.

Non-urgent and Important 2

Quadrant 2

If you don’t give Quadrant 2 activities precedence many of them will turn into Quadrant 1 activities. But, this is also where many of the activities that enhance the quality of your life lie—time with family, exercise, study, etc.

This is the magic quadrant. If possible, you want the majority of your actions to occur here. This is the where good managers and employees spend their time.

Urgent and Unimportant

Quadrant 3

You don’t want to be seen doing Quadrant 3 activities. They are ineffecient time-wasters.

I hate to break it to you, but if you’re in Quadrant 3 you’re really bad at prioritizing. Essentially, you’re hurrying around doing things which don’t add any value.

Non-urgent and Unimportant

Quadrant 4

Do you read and (even worse) forward all those joke emails your grandparents send you? Do you waste time on Facebook (or Twitter or YouTube or whatever) when you should be working? Quadrant 4 is the goof off domain.

One consequence of having spending too much time in Quadrant 1 is that in order to de-stress you’ll probably also be spending a fair amount of time in Quadrant 4 as well.

I Already Did That

For more on Covey’s Time Management Matrix and the Four Quadrants read First Thing’s First. You can also download a copy of the matrix and quadrants here.

Which quadrant do you spend most of your time in? What would it take to get to where you want to be? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

Seven Songs for the Ultimate Road Warrior’s Playlist

Some travelers jet set to glamorous locations—London, Paris, Madrid, Sydney, Shanghai, etc.—then there are those of us who fly into smaller, regional airports and then drive along rural roads of small-town America. We are the true Road Warriors.

In my current role I spend at least one week a month in Arkansas. The only thing that’s kept me sane on the long drives from LRNA to our field office has been a steady stream of great music.

Here are seven of my go-to tracks for the Ultimate Road Warrior’s playlist.

  1. On the Road AgainWillie Nelson

    On the Road Again

    This track signifies the beginning of another trip away from home. I’m never as anxious as Willie to be back on the road though.

    Available on iTunes and Amazon

  2. I’ve Been EverywhereJohnny Cash

    The Legend of Johnny Cash

    Sometimes it feels like I’ve been everywhere, seen everything, and done everything. The Man in Black gets that like few others do.

    Available on iTunes and Amazon

  3. Working Man Blues – Merle Haggard

    Best of Merle Haggard

    Yeah, it’s a big job getting’ by with three kids and a wife. This song reminds of why I take these trips. So, I can provide the best life I can for the ones I love.

    Available on iTunes and Amazon

  4. Truckin’ – Grateful Dead
  5. American Beauty

    “What a long, strange trip it’s been” ‘Nuff said.

    Available on iTunes and Amazon

  6. Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers Band

    The Allman Brothers Band - A Decade of Hits

    When my flight has been delayed (and delayed again and again and again …) this song provides the perfect soundtrack for those long, late night drives from the airport to the hotel.

    Available on iTunes and Amazon

  7. Ramble On – Led Zeppelin

    Led Zeppelin II

    By the end of a long week, I’m just ready to hit the road. This song not echoes that sentiment, but gets serious geek fred for its Lord of the Rings references (both Mordor and Gollum).

    Available on iTunes and Amazon

  8. Take Me Home Country Roads – John Denver

    John Denver's Greatest Hits

    This is the perfect song for driving back to the airport. My trip is over and all I want to do is go home and see the wife and kids.

    Available on iTunes and Amazon

For someone who claims not to be a Country Music fan This playlist is fairly fluid, but right now these are the songs I want to hear in my rental on my way to and from the the airport.

What do you want to hear when traveling along the open road? Sound off in the comments below.

All album art courtesy of Amazon

Rock Your Performance Review with a Brag File

It’s time for my mid-year performance review again. This means I get to give an accounting of my KPIs (business speak for goals) for the first half of fiscal year and gauge my progress towards my big fat bonus and raise.

What used to be an agonizing event for me has instead become a welcome opportunity to show exactly how valuable I am and how much I’m contributing to my team, my department, and my company.

The biggest contributing factor of this shift in my experience has been the creation and curation of my personal brag file.

Brag File in WriteRoom

The brag file is a plain text file which I use to store everything, no matter how great or small, that I do outside of my major projects. In my experience, my boss is usually well aware of the large projects I’m working on throughout the year as they are typically well documented and communicated.

However, there are always many important tasks (i.e.: interruptions) which crop up and need to be addressed. By tracking these as they occur I don’t need to try and remember how I spent all of my time.

By storing the brag file as plain text makes it portable and cross platform. This means I can edit the file in any application that accepts a “.txt” file extension regardless of whether it’s my Windows machine at work or on my Mac or iPad at home.

Having all my accomplishments listed in a text file lets me easily attach it to my electronic review form or print it up for talking points when I meet with my boss.

Bonus Tip:

Keep your brag file on DropBox. You can get a free account with 2 GB of online, synchronized storage. DropBox files are accessible via their site or one of the many supporting 3rd party apps on your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, etc. to read and write files stored there.

Using the brag file has revolutionized my performance reviews. While not everyone may look forward to them, this one small thing has really helped me make the most of my performance review and it can do the same for you.

What are your tips for rocking the performance review? Sound off in the comments below.

Dump Truck Days

This week I went to the New Mexico Coal mines to learn about their driver safety systems for work. Located in New Mexico within and around the Navajo Nation, the mines are a teaming with dump trucks.

Dump Truck Crossing (Just Nice)

One of the best toys I ever had as a boy was my Steel Tonka Dump Truck. It was big, heavy, and made the sandbox much more fun than normal.

While I wasn’t out at the mine to check out the trucks, seeing them in action brought back memories from when my favorite toy didn’t need to be recharged or require Internet access.

Trucks All in a Row (Birdsky)

Dump Truck Closeup (Treasured)

Heading Back from the Plant (Green with Envy)

Loading the Dump Truck 1 (This Is My Boom)

Loading the Dump Truck 2 (Hint of Vintage)

Loading the Dump Truck 3 (Zen)

What have you seen lately that brought back childhood memories? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

Turbo Charge Your Lunch Break in Seven Easy Steps

"Men and women employees on the "swi...

Image via Wikipedia

Smack dab in the middle of each day we have the chance to take a break from work, eat, and recharge. How sad is it that so few of us take full advantage of this opportunity!

It’s been quite some time since the last (consequently the first and heretofore only the third) post in my Lucky Sevens series. So, today, I’m sharing seven tips on how to make the most of your lunch break.

Not Work

Let me dispel a myth—you’re not required to work through lunch. Sadly, quite a few of us suffer from the delusion that we need to power on through the day without so much as a potty break let alone stopping to eat.

Do yourself a favor, don’t take any calls, don’t answer your email, save your filing for later, etc. It will all be there when you get back.

Eat

This seems fairly obvious, but I’m always surprised by how many people I know who go the entire workday without a bite to eat. It’s just not healthy to skip meals. You’ll be less cranky if nothing else and your co-workers will thank you.

Brown Bag It

Healthy Lunch
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

I’ve got two great reasons for why you should bring your lunch whenever you can.

1) You control the portions and the content. This means you’ll have a better idea of how many calories you’re wolfing down and how much fat you’ve got to burn at the gym later. When you eat out it’s a lot more difficult to know exactly what you’re putting into your body.

2) You save money. The cost of a ham & cheese sandwich plus a baggie of chips and a drink from home is about three to five bucks. It’s easy to spend well over $10 on a restaurant lunch.

Eat Outside

Weather permitting, I love to eat outside. This past week in Houston we had some unseasonably lovely weather and I was able to take advantage of it. I find it much more enjoyable to eat under the sun than under the flicker of fluorescent lighting any day.

When you eat outside you gain the added benefit of not being interrupted by co-workers. If I had a nickel for every time someone came up to me in the break-room and said “I’m sorry to bug you on your lunch break, but…” I’d have way more nickels than I currently do.

Go for a Walk

Don’t have time to exercise? Yeah, I tell that lie, too.

It probably doesn’t take you your entire lunch break to eat your food (especially if you bring it from home). Why not get a little exercise? Your heart will thank you.

Read a Book

One of the most common excuses I hear from people who don’t read is that, although they want to, they don’t have any time.

Read a paragraph in between bites and then spend the rest of your break turning pages. That way you won’t need to pretend you’ve read the title at your next book club meeting.

Go for a Date

With three kiddos it can be a challenge for us to schedule a regular date night. So, the wife and I sometimes get together for lunch.

Our lunch dates take us away from our daily tasks and help us stay connected. Show your loved ones you care and that you’d rather be with them than at work.

Cubicle workers of the world unite! It’s high time we reclaimed our lunch hour. Most of the tips I’ve shared can be combined with one or more of the others to further boost the effectiveness of your break.

How do you make the most of your lunch break? Sound off in the comments below.