Personal Disaster Recovery and Continuity

It is just my wife and I, no kids. I am the one that handles many of the household details. Read: pay the bills, etcetera. I was thinking, “what if anything happened to me? Would my wife know that I have a life insurance policy here or there?” Probably not. I decided to put something together to help her should something bad happen to me. Some may think it is a bit on the morbid side to think about death, but it’s something that happens. I just don’t want it to be harder on my wife, family, friends, than it needs to be.

I bought a USB drive. A pretty beefy one, 64gb capacity. I’m going to use it for a few other things, not just this little project. I then looked into Truecrypt. I’ve used it before. It’s an open source encryption tool that’s also easy to use. The information I’m going to store absolutely needs to be encrypted. It’s going to have some pretty sensitive data on it. I won’t go into detail about how to use Truecrypt, you can go to their website for that information. I created an encrypted section of the drive.

Once  the encrypted area was in place I created a text file that lists all the accounts she could possibly need. As I get bills I set them aside in order to grab the pertinent information from them. The text file includes account, policy and phone numbers for insurance, 401k, checking/savings, credit cards, bills, and other online accounts. It also lists usernames and passwords to some of those online resources.  At some point I’ll put my will there and maybe a video or two. As things change, I’ll update the text file as needed.

I have instructions for using truecrypt printed off (covering mac or windows) which I will put into an envelope. I’ll store the password separately from the instructions and the usb drive. I’ll eventually need to give the instructions, password and usb drive to entrusted individuals with very clear instructions. I am still contemplating how to do this. My fear is, what happens if the person I entrust has something happen to them? Or, they lose the stuff. That would be a problem. Maybe a law firm is in order.

My hope is that my wife won’t need to dig through papers for required information. I also want to prevent the discovery some time down the road, “oh, look at this! I found a life insurance policy of Sean’s”. It’s all in one place. The important stuff. A lot of the username & password info will allow her to forego any hassle verifying my death or her having to prove her relationship to me. She’ll be able to simply log in as me and take care of business.

Now remember, when I go, I want an Irish wake. There better be whiskey and song!

Recent Advice to a IT Support Specialist

Sometimes I get pinged from IT pros seeking to land an full time employment position in their respected field. This is one person that has a support background.  Here was my email response to him.

Thanks for contacting me. Unfortunately, I have moved out of recruiting and into IT Security. I’d be more than happy to help, but many of our support openings, re: help desk, reside in Waverly, IA, and doesn’t often include relocation to the candidate. I’d start networking pretty heavily. If you’re not on LinkedIn, get a profile. Join a few groups there and start telling people about your skills and weighing in on some discussions. I know you had worked for staffing firms too. I’d ping many of them to get some temp assignments, do awesome at those assignments and ask your interim supervisor if it’s ok to connect to them on LinkedIn and that your ultimate goal is to get FTE work.
It might even be a good thing to start a tech blog on wordpress.com or blogger. It’s free and will start showing off your knowledge beyond the resume. Then put that blog url on your resume. It’s showing your passion for IT support and your diligence on the blog. Make sure you update it consistently, that’s the key! A blog with articles every few months is not all that impressive.
I hope this helps. Good luck!

People Just Want To Be Wanted

As recruiters, we need to remember that people want to be wanted. That’s why performance management seems contrary to that. That’s why recruiters need to understand the sensitivity behind breaking the news to someone that did not get a job, especially to internal staff. I don’t doubt that people leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated, they don’t feel wanted.

Think about it for a second.

When you get the news of not getting a job, how does it make you feel? Many times there is little to no feedback. What are you supposed to think? I mean, your qualifications fit the bill, right?

When handling internal staff it’s vitally important to let them know, that despite the circumstances, you need them in the organization. If you don’t want them in the org, well, that’s a different story. While some in the industry may say that performance plans are HR’s method to exit someone from the company, it should really be looked at from the ‘we value you as an employee and want to get you on the track for success’ perspective.  The same goes with getting turned down for promotion or another position. ‘You do some things very well, and you can get there. The areas to concentrate on developing are… is that a path you want to pursue?’ The person may be responsible for their own career development, but the manager should be there to help and guide.

I’m in the people business, it’s important to know how to handle people.

Web Analytics – What Do They Mean?

I worked for small firm here in the Madison area. Yeah imagine the reactions some clients had when I left a web account manager for a corporate IT recruiter position. I digress. I learned a lot about project management, selling e-marketing solutions, and understanding client needs. I also learned a bit more about web analytics.

I used to think I knew what web analytics was all about. I had it on a few websites of my own and took a look at them from time to time. Well I did not have a good understanding, and I still don’t. Not fully. Why? Because it’s a tricky space. Many rookies and professionals tend to think they know what the numbers mean, but they misinterpret them or think that more is better. That’s not always the case. I give you the following example…
Continue reading “Web Analytics – What Do They Mean?”

So You Lost Your Job

Holy crap! I just lost my job! What am I going to do?

Sometimes it comes with no surprise, but often times it hits us like a head-on automobile collision. We’re going along, just fine, when our world is suddenly turned upside down. Hundreds of questions start to flood the mind and anxiety runs through our nervous system. The shock leaves us stupefied. Deer in the headlights is certainly a good analogy. I could go on, but you may have been there or are currently going through this. Allow me to quote Douglas Adams:

DON’T PANIC!

When you lose your job, it’s important to gather your thoughts. Nothing is going to ‘un-do’ what has already been done. It’s what to do now and tomorrow. The building burned down. You can’t un-do the fire.  You have to clear your mind and re-build. Continue reading “So You Lost Your Job”

Howto Use Tweetdeck Effectively

I do think that social media can be used by companies and organizations to help them monitor communications. I do want to make it clear that I don’t drink from the social media kool aid and think that if you’re not on social mediums that your company will fail.  Some social media ‘experts’ have such strong convictions that they often tout the millions of dollars corporate America is saving or profiting from their social media initiatives.  Just have an open mind and don’t be sold on it. Learn about it. See how your company can profit from social media and then use it constructively. Don’t do it because some guy shows you tons of links and forces the social media kool aid down your throat.  The March 16th, 2010 Wall Street Journal article: Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media, quotes the following

“…survey of 500 U.S. small-business owners from the same sponsors found that just 22% made a profit last year from promoting their firms on social media, while 53% said they broke even. What’s more, 19% said they actually lost money due to their social-media initiatives.”

It’s most important to know how to use social media in order to net a profit and not a loss. One tool that can help you is TweetDeck. TweetDeck is a 3rd party application that can run on your desktop pc – Windows, Mac, or Linux, iphone, and iPad. It is an awesome tool that also facilitates updating your Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, MySpace, FourSquare and Linkedin all at once, OR you can choose which account to update with a specific post. You can also set it up to monitor your channels like direct messages, mentions of your @handle, and search terms that are crucial to your organization.  This last part, search terms, will allow you to do a search, enter your company’s name, and then any time that term is used, you will be alerted and the tweet will show up in that column of TweetDeck.  That is key to monitoring who is talking about your industry or your organization. It allows you to thank clients that praise and do damage control for those that are disgruntled.  So what does all this mean? Let’s walk through a basic setup, it’s very easy. Continue reading “Howto Use Tweetdeck Effectively”

Saying Good Bye to Shared Web Hosting

I first worked with websites and web hosting back in 2003, so it hasn’t been all that long in the grand scheme of things. I started out hosting an IIS server in my home to host forums for our roleplaying game group. I later bought my first domain grumblingdwarf.com and set up hosting through an online web hosting provider. I wanted the site to be more accessible to other people on the interwebs. Since my first site, sitting on a server in my basement, was ASP; I had to round up a web hosting company that offered IIS. It took me years to realize that shared hosting would be the bane of my webmaster existence.  Looking back now, I can’t even recall the first hosting company I used. They are no longer around.

I heard about LAMP stacks and the plethora of online forums, and CMSs, that were available to anyone and came with what I needed for my site. I’m not a programmer so working with Joomla, phpbb, xoops, and eventually drupal, seemed like a good format for the sites I wanted. Eventually I secured hosting at Dreamhost. I couldn’t even tell you how I found them. The performance was erratic. Downtime became a problem. I think they even had a fire in one of their datacenters. Though their approach was charming with their ability to make light of situations, I had to move.

Finding a good web hosting provider online can be daunting. Anyone can be a provider. Set up a linux box and some specs with a website and you soon realize that the picture of the big corporate building is just a facade for some guy’s company that is really being run out of a basement. I haven’t even mentioned the shills that can manipulate reviews and comments about services that aren’t all that great. So finding a reputable host can be a challenge. Continue reading “Saying Good Bye to Shared Web Hosting”

Why Wait?

You have an IT project to get done. You know it has to get done. It can’t wait any longer…or can it? You’ll need to figure out who in the department can get it done and still do the regular day-to-day tasks. You’ll have to figure out the time line for completing the project. Will your current staff have the expertise it takes to get ‘er done while adhering to the aforementioned time line? Upper management might tell you to hold off. Times are tough, right? Sales is down and money is not easy to come by. How do you justify getting the project done now? Let the boss know that you can get well-qualified help and save money on bill rates if you get it done now versus waiting.

Variable cost is one solution to the problem. You spend money now and make up the savings over time.

Example:
a contractor costs $65/hr x 3months (480hrs) = $31200.00 (total burden).
vs.
permanent hire, same qualifications – $77k plus benefits per year, don’t forget unemployment insurance, taxes, cost of posting ad, sifting through 25-50 resumes, 10-15 phone screens, 5-10 first interviews, 3-5 second interviews and the cost of the staff, from HR to the IT Team, taking time out to do that screening.

All you’re trying to do is get a project done, will you need the person long-term? How do you justify that to the boss? Contract-to-hire may be a good way to assess the need.

Another cost-saving consideration is the economy. Consider the scenario above. A 3month project, and people are willing to take less pay. Does that mean the person has depreciated or lost skills? No way.

Example:
a contractor costs $65 60/hr (saving $5/hr) x 3months (480hrs) = $31200.00 $28800.00(total burden). That’s almost $3000.00, and they’re better qualified because not everyone is hiring great people right now!

That’s almost 10% savings if you do it now rather than wait, AND the better qualified person is available now. In one year that person may not only be at a higher cost, but they may not even be available for project/contract work. In a year you’ll end up settling for someone at a higher rate and less experience. That’s no good.

Yes, it’s tough. Everyone knows it, but save the money now when it comes to IT projects. It will benefit you and your organization. We’re in business to earn money, and sometimes we don’t know how to take advantage in a down economy. This is just one way.

Show Your Enthusiasm

I have actually had job interviews and the manager said they passed on hiring me because I didn’t seem interested in the job. Can you believe that? Well, that’s what they told me. So what are you supposed to do? How about performing a cart wheel when you enter the room. Holy cow, look out, here comes the legs, BAM! That won’t work.

You go out on the Internet, do a search for interview questions, and all that comes up are examples of what questions you should be aware of when being the interviewee. Helpful? Yes. Why do I bring this up? Well, one way to show your interest in a job is to ask questions! How many times have you left an interview, gone home and had your spouse or friend ask, “how did the interview go”? Shouldn’t you be able to tell them a lot of details? Shouldn’t you be aware of the details so you can be sure that you are not only qualified for the position, but also want the position?

I tell people to have at least 10 questions prepared for the interview. Many line managers will summarize many things about the company and the position so at the end of the interview, when they ask if you have any questions, you’ll actually have some questions that have not already been answered.

Here are some example questions you can use when you go in to an interview. Some are 101 level. Some may be answered by viewing the company website, but it’s ok to elaborate. So if you notice on the corporate website that there are 3 addresses/locations for the company, you may want to ask what departments are at each location or how it’s dispersed.

How long has the position been open?
Why is the position open?
What is a normal day like?
How big is the department or team of people I’d be working with on a daily basis?
What has been the year over year growth of the company?
Who are the two biggest competitors of the company?
Who would I be answering to on a daily basis?
What type of training is involved for the role?
How many locations does the company have?
How many employees does the company have?
What is the day to day dress code?
What is the daily start and end times for work?
How is the department organized?
What is the biggest challenge within the department? ie meeting goals, things change so maybe its adaptability, etc
What is the biggest challenge that will be or has been encountered for this role?
Who has been there the longest in the department?
Who has been there the shortest amount of time in the department?
Who is the all-star in the department and what makes them stand out? This will tell you who you should seek out as a mentor.
Does the company have any company staff events? Bowling team, etc.
How often is feedback given, ie reviews, performance evals, etc?
What initiatives would you like to accomplish within the department in the next year, 5 years, etc?
Are any new department-level initiatives underway?
How many applicants have you had for the position?
How many applicants have you interviewed for the position?
When do you hope to have someone actually working in the position?
Based on our interaction, do you find me a viable candidate for the role?

Mileage may vary. Feel free to share questions you have found valuable, add it via a comment!

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Craigslist Job Postings

Many companies are taking their job postings to Craigslist. I can only speculate and say that they’re going this route to save money. Monster and other services can be pricey, and newspaper…well we won’t go there. Not too many people do. Some job postings are done as blind ads. There is little information about the company and almost no contact information is listed. The big reason for this is that it will keep firms from calling on the ad. If there’s no phone number to call you can filter the emailed inquiries pretty efficiently. It has probably worked for many companies, but how long will it continue to be a positive experience?

I bring this up because I came across an ad on craigslist. Yes, I was inquiring about a job posting. I found out it was a person that was not looking for additional help at all, but was merely collecting resumes from would-be applicants in order to compare his own resume to theirs. Effective? Probably, especially in today’s market. Ethical? I don’t think so.

So how do you know if you’re submitting a resume, with your own contact information at the top, to a legitimate employer? You might not ever know. Many employers that post legitimate roles, right on their own website, will rarely give you a response unless they’re interested in your background. Now imagine it’s not a job posting at all and the chances of a follow up are nil.

Be careful out there folks.