Word of Advice

Note: Since first publishing this blog article back in March of 2016, I’ve found myself back in the job market. Today I was looking at my own advice for job interviewees, and found it needed some updates that I had missed, probably because applying for jobs and interviewing has changed a lot over the years.  I’ve also done more with Craig’s List/Ebay etc, and am updating those sections as well.

Job Interviewee – Take a shower, groom yourself for Pete’s sake. Put on professional clothes and shine your shoes, lose the gum and brush your teeth. It really IS true, you never have a second chance to make a good first impression. This advice applies whether your interview is in person, or is a video interview. What’s that, you say? A video interview? Yes, Virginia, a video interview. Today’s businesses are beginning to use video interviews as initial screening interviews. The HR representative can record themselves asking a series of questions, and then the interviewee has a predetermined amount of time to respond. It saves the HR rep a lot of time, by not having to schedule the calls or bring people into their offices. You do, however, need to treat it as if it’s a true face-to-face interview. Test your system first, make sure your lighting is good, that you don’t have a distracting background behind you. I invested in an inexpensive photography backdrop that I hang up behind me, and put that up. If you set yourself up facing a window you’ll get nice, diffuse light that is flattering, but if that’s not available make sure you at least have enough light that your face can be seen.

For in person interviews, learn how to shake hands. Do you have any idea how many people I’ve shaken hands with that don’t know how? If you aren’t sure how to, then you probably don’t do it well. Go ask someone you know that is a confident business person to evaluate yours and help you improve because a limp handshake is horrible, and look people in the eye when you shake their hand.

Drive the route to the interview BEFORE you need to do it so that you know how long it takes. Don’t be late. If you’re going to be late, call. If possible, send a handwritten, yes, I said handwritten thank you note, and if your handwriting is illegible (you know who you are) then print. If you only had a phone interview or video screening, you may only be able to send a thank you via e-mail, and then you should do it that way, but that’s only if you don’t know an address for your interviewer. If you have an actual address, a handwritten note is always better etiquette.

Craig’s List/Ebay Buyers – Have you ever sold anything on Craig’s List or Ebay? If you have, then you know what an adventure it can be, but it can just as easily be a pointless exercise in futility. We’ve been cleaning out our crawl space, trying to get rid of a few things, make a little money, you know the drill. I’ve learned a few phrases that are rather helpful. “Cash is king” and “cash talks, bullshit walks” are my two favorites that my husband is continually beating into my brain. Now I started out being a Craig’s List softie…”oh, you need a day or two, sure, get back to me, I’ll hold it for you…”, or negotiating simultaneously with one buyer who then couldn’t deliver on time, going with a second who could then feeling bad when the first wanted more time because “I promised him he could buy the item, even though he didn’t have the money right then” or feeling like I needed to answer every email, and telling people that I had other buyers and what the conditions were. However, after being taken advantage of a few times, I’ve changed, become a radical hardliner. Gavel down, BAM! “SOLD to the first one at the neutral (and safe) meeting place with paper money that passes the counterfeit test wins the prize.”  For all you potential buyers on Craig’s List out there, here are some helpful tips.

1.Don’t email me to tell me “I’m interested.” I’m tempted to reply “that’s nice, so what?” Because I don’t care if you’re merely interested, I only really care if you want to BUY IT.  So if you really want to buy my item, tell me you want to buy it and when you want to meet, otherwise stop wasting my time.

2. Read the dang ad AND look at the pictures. I took the time to take photos, at different angles, to show you lots of information. I also said in the ad that the item a) works, b) does or does not have scratches c) is new or is used, etc. Now if you want more information about it that I didn’t put in the ad, that’s a different story, please go ahead and ask for it.  But don’t waste my time asking about what’s already there.

3. Don’t contact me unless you’re interested and plan to follow through. This week I had someone tell me she wanted something, we exchanged messages about connecting, then she dropped off the face of the earth. Meanwhile I had another person waiting to see if the item was still available.  I mean really, did you want it or not? If you changed your mind, I don’t care, you’re not hurting my feelings, just say so. Stop wasting my time for the love of…(are you seeing the theme?)

4. If you ask me to ship you the item because you’ve decided you don’t want to drive to me, realize it’s an inconvenience for me, act accordingly. Don’t dictate terms of this to me, I’ll choose my shipping agent, thanks.

5. And here is the kicker. If you ask me to accept money through PayPal, then you pay the fees to transfer! You came to me knobhead. I’m not taking a loss in my profit as a convenience to you.

Ebay Buyers – There isn’t as much to say here, probably because it’s an online bidding process and Ebay has already taken a lot of the guesswork out of it for you. The best advice I can give is to just pay promptly, because I won’t ship anything until your payment has come through. So any delays on your part will result in a delay in receiving your item.

Grocery shoppers – it’s just like driving (assuming you’re in a country that drives on the right side of the road). Carts on the right please, although I’d love to know if it’s opposite across the pond, where they drive on the wrong side of the road.  Do they move grocery carts on the left side of the aisles as well? : ) But how hard is it really, to get your cart out of the middle of the aisle. When you stop to get something off the shelf, just move to the side. Don’t stop in the middle. Look around. The aisles aren’t 3 carts wide. If you’re in the middle, ain’t nobody getting around. My parents brought me up to be polite, Minnesota nice, to say a gentle “please”, and “thank you”, and “excuse me”, and to cover my mouth when I burped in public. I am SO over that in the grocery store now (The Minnesota nice part. I’ll still cover my mouth when I burp in public, I promise Mom), it’s a firm and vocal “Excuse Me” that’s a whole lot closer to East Coast than the Midwest.

Anyone under the age of 35 – chronologically or mentally. Remove the phrase “I deserve” and “entitled” from your vocabulary and attitude. You don’t, you aren’t. Period. The world owes you NOTHING, you have to earn it. When you act like they do, you not only show your immaturity, but I really want to swat you off my shoulder like a gnat. Scat, go away!

Just sayin’.

 

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Tribute

I’m saddened this morning to read of the passing of Pat Conroy. If you’ve never read any of his work, you’re missing out on an amazing experience. I only recently discovered that, having tried to read his work many years ago and finding myself not ready to appreciate it. When I picked up The Prince of Tides a few months back, perhaps because I am older, or wiser (I hope!) for whatever reason, it was the right time.

What a gift he had to tell a story! I found myself so immersed in the book that I alternated between wanting it to never end and needing it to, so I could get on with my life. It’s as if each word had been selected so as to maximize the effect and nuance, not wasting them needlessly, so I’ll do the same.

As is often said, gone too soon.

Squirrel or Bear?

If you’ve never been camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (also known as the BWCA), it’s truly a wonderful experience (assuming, of course, that you like to go camping. If your idea of roughing it is slow room service, you’re probably already thinking that we have differing ideas of what wonderful means.) Being someplace where the water is so pristine you can still safely drink it (from 30 feet offshore, let’s be sensible, people!), where bald eagles are in abundance, moose are rare but might show up, and any number of other critters abound to greet you does have it’s charms.

The BWCA is located in northeastern Minnesota, and is most of the “pointed arrow” part of the state. It’s over a million acres of pure wilderness, where no motors of any kind are allowed – boats, cars or float planes. It borders Canada’s Quetico and La Verendrye Provincial Parks, which are also wilderness areas of over 1 million acres combined. When you go camping there, you go in by canoe, bringing what you need in the canoe, carrying it on your back, and you learn that traveling light is absolutely critical. You really CAN get by with only one extra set of footwear, a couple of t-shirts, a few shorts and guess what? Underwear can be turned inside out before being washed. No kidding! You laugh now, but after a long day of paddling, broken up only by the multiple treks over the rocky portages where you made multiple trips carrying 65 lb packs on your back, believe me when I tell you that every ounce counts.Rocky Portage.jpg

I know it seemed like a great idea at the time bring in the box of wine, but by the end of the third set of half mile portages, where you have to climb over huge boulders with the packs, and make three trips each way to get all your crap, suddenly you’ll be asking yourself “what can I leave behind” and realize the answer is “nothing!” Because you’re now out in the middle of nowhere, and no one leaves anything behind. Except maybe small children that have had too much sugar, but I think the park rangers pick them up daily and drop them back at a special ranger station or something.

So back to camping. After you get into the BWCA and find your campsite, there are a couple of really important things to do. First, find the tent pad, but don’t kid yourself, it’s not padded, it’s hard, it’s the ground for heaven’s sake. You want to pitch your tent on a spot that is a) relatively small rock free, b) slightly slopey but not too much, so if it rains, you’ll get water run off and c) not near a widow maker.  What’s that you say?  Well, that would be a tall, old dead tree, that has the potential to come down on top of you in a wind storm. Bad, bad idea.  After you find that, find the path to the toilet seat before you need it. They don’t have outhouses there, the whole forest is your outhouse…but they do have fiberglass toilets on top of pits that were dug, so at least there is something to sit on. It’s a little strange to be outdoors like that but it’s always situated back from the campsite for privacy and eh, you get used to it. Finally, and do this before you actually spend the time pitching your tent….for the love of God, find the tree you’re hanging the food pack in. Yes, you heard me right. You need to hang the food to keep it away from the bears. I think when I first talked about that one with my husband before my first trip (and about his 24th), it was fine in concept but it wasn’t until we were actually in camp that it got real, and I started to think about what could happen. Holy crap, we could have a BEAR IN CAMP!

So we get everything set up, food pack is up, tent is pitched, toilet runs are done, dinner has been rehydrated and eaten and dishes washed, dried and put away. We’re in the tent for the night. It’s quiet. Really quiet. Unearthly quiet. Except for the bugs, the crickets, the mice, the owls, the bats, the coyotes, and “OMG what the HELL WAS THAT?” and by now husband is patting my hand and saying “it’s ok, honey, it’s nothing. Go to sleep”.  Sleep? How am I supposed to sleep? It’s too freaking loud for me to sleep!  There is noise everywhere? The wind is blowing, the trees are creaking, I swear something is going to fall over and kill us. The ground is like a rock.  I can’t get comfortable, I want my pillow, I want my bed. My brain is racing with everything I have back home with my creature comforts that are missing here. It took what seemed like forever before I could start to relax even the tiniest bit. Then it happened. Husband is sleeping, I can tell by his breathing (wives just know these things.) Against the side of the tent is a rustling sound like a brush rubbing up against it. I grabbed his arm “honey, what’s that!!” waking him up with a loud, urgent  whisper. Because of course I’m positive it was a bear, and we’re gonna die, and waking him out of a sound sleep is the thing that will keep us alive. Too bad I couldn’t see the flaw in that logic then, but being exhausted and sleep deprived will do that to you. In return he gives me the husband sounds of “ungh, snort, what?” because of course, he was sleeping. “Something brushed up against the tent!” He then did what all good, experienced BWCA camper husbands do. Pats my hand and says , “It’s nothing. Go back to sleep”, because he assumed I’d already been asleep.  Argh, seriously? A bear probably brushed up against the tent and all you can say is go back to sleep? I know I hardly slept a wink that night, terrified out of my mind. I mean, if it’s a bear, don’t I want to know if it’s coming in the tent and I’m gonna die?

Well somewhere between terror and dawn I did fall asleep, and woke to daylight. We got up and he said “you realize what you were probably hearing was a squirrel’s tail brushing up against the tent?”

Nuh-uh. That was NOT a squirrel. It was HUGE, killer bear size. In my sleep deprived mind it was so loud, I know it must have looked a little like this:

Adult SqBear

The dreaded squirrel bear. I swear that’s what it had become without sleep and the fuel of sugar and caffeine. And I just knew the next night, I was going to be it’s next meal. Thank goodness I was so tired by nightfall, I didn’t give two hoots, and was almost in a coma before I hit my pillow made from a pillowcase stuffed with a t-shirt and rolled up pants.

Go ahead and laugh, we both do now, and in fact we’ve been there three more times and have had fun with this story every time. But each time we’ve gone back, I’m pretty sure the squirrel bear has been out there watching on my first night back in camp as I try to relax and get used to the sounds, just waiting for his opportunity to brush against the side of our tent.

What’s Free Time?

“What are you going to do with all your free time?” Someone asked me that question the other day, when I told them I was getting ready to complete my post-graduate studies. Yes, after 5 long, long, LONG years, I am almost done. The end is in sight. Shortly after I post this my final paper and project will be turned in and then I will be free of the worst professor on the planet, and the countdown to walking graduation will start, and on December 15 I get to make my mom cry a few happy tears. But I digress.

Free time? What’s that? Oh yeah, it’s what other people have…insert snicker here. I used to know what it was. I was going to ask the people around me what they do in their free time, you know, like family and friends. Here’s the problem with that. After a few years of having no life, what do we do? We surround ourselves with OTHER PEOPLE JUST LIKE OURSELVES who also have no lives. ARGH. I’m in trouble. So I’ve started to dig deep into the recesses of the brain closet for old hobbies to resurrect.

Quilting was something that I liked, so I’ll probably try that again, hopefully I’ll have learned some patience over the last 5 years. And some precision. I do have a project that I started a number of years ago, and I never finished it so it would make a good one to tackle. My grandmother started a quilt when she was a girl, in the “granny’s flower garden” pattern. The blocks are hexagon shaped, and are of course hand quilted. When she did it, she accidentally put too many blocks together, so the center ended up oval. The pieced block ended up the wrong shape and she got stuck and ended up with 31 blocks that are about 12″ x 8″ that she didn’t know what to do with, and she quit. She ended up giving them to me, and I started by cutting hexagons to try to piece them by hand, but boy is THAT putzy. So maybe I’ll try to figure out something else. I could do…..

Knitting…now THERE’s an old lady pastime! Sitting in a rocking chair by the fire, kitty at my feet. Crap, there goes the cat again, chewing on the yarn. “Stop it! Let go of the yarn” and I stop my foot. “That’s $20 a skein from England and is a gift for Amy, darn it!” (not really, Amy, don’t get excited.) Or I could….

Probably the one I’m most excited about is photography. We do have several cameras and lenses and I love getting out and just shooting nature, and trying different things. We have some fabulous locations close by here and I can’t wait to just take a chair and sit, and have the time to just wait for the opportunities to happen. Isn’t that a lovely phrase? “Have the time to just wait”? How often do we ever do that? For anything? Yeah, me neither. But it’s a nice thought….

In the meantime, it’s 26 days, 11 hours, 43 minutes until graduation. But who’s counting? It’s not like I’m impatient or anything.