Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wish You Were Here

It was my first concert. I'll never forget the easy coolness of a late spring evening. May, 1988. We walked to Camp Randall stadium a group of four giggling girls at sixteen, trying way too hard to look older, edgier, cooler.

I had the cassette tape, Momentary Lapse Of Reason, which I listened to over and over again, memorizing and analyzing lyrics. How many times had I sang along to "Learning To Fly" while crouched in front of my full length mirror, curling iron in hand, practicing a pout of a much older girl? Too many to count.

The first thing I did upon entering the stadium was pick out an overpriced, oversized t-shirt.  I think I still have it to this day, packed away. Black with laser beams shining this way and that. How psychedelic.

We found our seats, four girls in concert t-shirts and jean jackets, in front of a group of what I assume were young college kids. They groaned at the sight of us. We were babies. But I didn't care. That feeling, the night air, the music which I felt defined me, made me feel alive.

Dogs of war and men of hate
With no cause, we don't discriminate
Discovery is to be disowned
Our currency is flesh and bone
Hell opened up and put on sale
Gather 'round and haggle
For hard cash, we will lie and deceive
Even our masters don't know the web we weave
One world, it's a battleground
One world, and we will smash it down
At 16, bobbing my head up and down, not questioning what drove a man to write such hardened lyrics, it spoke to my teenage angst. Singing along with thousands of Pink Floyd enthusiasts I felt a part of something.
There was smell in the air I was not yet familiar with, pot, one of my more savvy girlfriends informed me with a wink. Could we find some? We could not. We were too straight laced and obedient. We may have been the only stone-cold concert goers there, but it didn't matter.  I was literally high off the experience. The experience of being young, but on the cusp of something. The new found freedom of being allowed to go to a concert sans parents, the air so crisp, full of stars and promise.
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found
The same old fears.
Wish you were here
When they moved into Wish You Were Here,  my eyes welled up with tears.  A song so hopeless, left me feeling so full of hope. Such happy anticipation for the years ahead.

And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
No, I thought. No! I would not. I was going to do great things. I was going to be something. No walk on parts for this girl. That night. That fabulous, beautiful night, I felt like the world was mine. Screw the college kids behind us poking fun,  screw the fact we couldn't buy beer or find weed, we were there. We were free. We were just beginning.
Wish you were here. Sometimes I wish I was there. Back in 1988, that teenage girl full of magical anticipation, my whole life still unwritten.  Here and there I experience moments that take me back. Whether it's hearing a song on the radio, meeting someone new, watching my children or awakening from a sweet dream. 
I suppose that was one of those coming of age moments. One that I will treasure, and take out every time I am in a bar or my car and a Pink Floyd tune comes on, taking me back to that magical moment in time.

LinkedIn: What's not to like? I'll tell you!

How many recruiters out there remember what it was like to recruit pre-LinkedIn era? What it was like to scour the World Wide Web to find a mid level sales person in a fortune 500 company? To pick up the phone and put on your most official and authoritative voice and ask the gate keeper if you could  please speak with a sales manager who handles B2B sales for small to mid-sized companies?

If you are raising your hand and saying "I do! I do!" then, like me you have the utmost respect for all the glory that is LinkedIn. As recruiters our livlihood depends on it.  If the site goes down for even a few minutes our heart rate spikes and we develop the shakes.  And while I rely on LinkedIn like it's oxygen, it has it's strengths and weaknesses.

So as a professional venting session I'm going to list a few things that I don't like about LinkedIn. Please let me know what I have missed in comments!

  1. Endorsements. Useless endorsements. Hi perfect stranger, thank you so much for endorsing my skills in employee relations!  Unfortunately, I have no skills in employee relations because I am a recruiter not an HR Generalist.  No perfect stranger, I'm sorry but I will not return the favor and "endorse" you for your java coding skills, since I know nothing about java except that I enjoy a nice steaming cup of it now and then.  
  2. People who mistake LinkedIn as a dating site.  LinkedIn is not the next Match, Ok Cupid or Tinder.  It is a professional networking site. And anyways you live in Thailand and I live in Denver so go away. 
  3. Greeting Cards. I have never met you. I get enough spam. I honestly don't care if you wish me a happy solstice. Just. Stop. 
  4. Declines. Okay. I understand if you aren't interested in my FANTASTIC job opportunity, but do you really have to "decline" me? Perhaps something a bit more gentle? A nice "thanks, let's keep in touch" is always appropriate. It's all about who you know. Connect with me. You never know where life may take you.
  5.  This last one is honestly my own fault. Some time ago I put my personal contact information on my profile, including my cell-phone number. Don't ask me why. It was a bad idea. It doesn't happen often but every now and then I will get a call at 8:30 on Saturday night. I pick up. (Yes, yes, this is all my fault!) and it is an applicant inquiring about a job posting in Miami. Which means its actually 10:30 Eastern Time. On Saturday. Yeah. You aren't getting the job. And yes. I am removing my phone number from my profile!

I am sure there are many other quirks I have missed. And while I complain, I do admit that LinkedIn is my life blood and I don't know what on earth I would do without it. But I complain. It's what I do. :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Transition: Moving From Mommy To Mom

Sometimes I wonder if I am just not cut out for this mom of elementary age school kids thing.  I mean, I kind of had it figured out when they were toddler and preschool aged.  I liked what they liked. Story time. Sing-a-longs, park play dates with fellow mommies (and wine) on a sunny day.  I knew that giving a meal a special name ("sunshine carrots" "pizza cupcakes" ") or cutting sandwiches into dinosaur shapes could fool them into eating healthy foods. I knew that the promise of a sticker or a balloon could make a trip to Target, Safeway or the liquor store tolerable for everyone. Bedtime was at 7:30. They liked the bath. They let me dress them. I knew what the hell I was doing.

Kindergarten wasn't too bad.  Homework consisted of reading and an occasional worksheet. The after school activities were of our choosing and we picked based on convenience.

But shit started getting real once we entered first, second and now third grade and I just don't know if I can keep up.  My kids are no longer as easily bribed, or motivated by the dollar bin at Target. They have opinions about how they want their hair cut. They have hours of homework, fierce tempers, and so very many interests. Soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming-  I know this is practically sacrilegious to say but I don't want to spend my Friday night in a run down gym watching my six year old running basketball drills, or my Saturdays in back to back soccer games. It's a full time job trying to keep track of their social, school and extracurricular activities. How am I really supposed to remember that the third Saturday of the month is Evan's snack day for basketball (and one kid has a gluten allergy,) and Zack's snack day is the following Tuesday-no nuts!!  When they were younger, the kids did what we wanted for the most part, with a few easy adaptations, now however... we aren't running the show.

I guess I'm a little selfish.  But that isn't the only hurdle of parenting school-aged kids I have encountered.  There are others. I mentioned homework earlier.  Oh the damn homework.  It was one thing when we were doing simple addition flash cards and practicing writing the alphabet, but long division, who does long division anymore? Third graders that's who.  And it is embarrassing when I have to reach for me phone to find the answer to 463 divided by 18. And it's too much. The homework is too damn much. At the end of a long day the last thing the kids and I want to do after dinner is more work, and yet it needs to be done, often times with kicking and screaming.

Even Christmas and other gift-giving holidays have become harder.  The kids who were once overjoyed by a stuffy, a small set of legos or some Hot Wheels now had Iphones, Ipads, gaming systems, laptops and large sums of money on their wish list. Nothing shuts down the romance of Santa than getting NOTHING on your list. (Sorry son, the elves in the North Pole don't make I-anything!)

Finally, there is a whole new world to navigate.  A world where they meet kids at school who watch R-rated movies. A world where my nine year old has his own email account and knows how to navigate the dangerous world of the worldwide web. A world where I find my children joking about vaginas and talking about kissing. A world where they know how to turn on the TV and stumble on an episode of The Family Guy.  A world where one kid has more friends than the other. A world where my kids can actually do real damage to each other in a battle over a Nerf gun. A world where the boys start asking questions about drugs and the wine we are drinking.

A world when those babies are growing into people, people with their own ideas, desires, personality quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  It really is an amazing, and sometimes scary thing to watch. Once I held my baby in my womb, then later at my breast. The first few years that followed, those kids held my hand and looked to me for everything, and yet now I see them separating, a little more each day. And each day as I give them more room to be independent, I feel myself letting go of something. It isn't love or attachment, but it's something.  I'm not a Mommy anymore. I'm turning into Mom. Mom who administers homework and cheers from the sidelines. Mom who gets an occasional eye-roll and a smart mouth.  Mom who is no longer called upon to plan birthday parties with goody bags, but to book the event and stay out of site.  And in my head I know. I know that this is right and good.   But sometimes my heart aches a little as I see my youngest, my three year old, and I know that he is the last little hand I will hold to cross the street, the last little guy I will watch PBS with, the last one to ever utter the word "mommy" in my presence.

I remember being nervous and a little afraid as I awaited the birth of my first born son.  Would I be able to nurse him? Would I drop him in the bath? What if he got sick?  Yet I mastered that. I figured it out with time, and now as we enter a whole new phase of parenthood, I have to trust that I will figure this out as well. We will get through the homework, and the crazy schedules.  We will guide our children into adolescence the same way that we navigated sleepless nights and potty training. Sure, there will be mistakes and there are things we will wish we would have done differently. But we will get through it, and I have a feeling that someday I will be sitting at a keyboard writing a similar post about sending my boys off to college. Perhaps I will write about missing their big shoes and their  sweaty gym socks cluttering the living room floor.  I am guessing that I will feel nostalgia for the back-to-school nights and a basement full of noisy little men.

There is one thing I am certain of, one constant that will stand the test of time:  I won't always be a mommy, but those boys, they will always, always be my babies.

Monday, January 12, 2015

And The Mother Of The Year Award Goes To....

I can admit to the fact I am not the most organized mom on the block.  Okay, that is actually being generous I might actually be the least organized mom in the whole school district.  It isn't that I don't try.  I go through periods where I attempt to get some sort of semblance of structure and planfulness. Just at the beginning of this school year I took Parenting Magazine's advice and put together what was supposed to be a "command center." I got a planner so we could write down important dates, I got a file holder to store homework and notices. I got a whiteboard because Parenting Magazine said I should.  Now I have an empty planner, the whiteboard went missing before I put it up and the file holder has basically become a wasteland of crap I don't know what else to do with.

I have an appointment reminder postcard from the kids dentist on my desk, from a date I missed months ago. I have misplaced the class directory, and I'm starting to develop panic attacks knowing that it's almost time to start summer camp registrations.

That said, my kids usually have clean clothes and a hot meal, we show up at birthday parties on time, they have their necessary immunizations and we made it to one of two of our kids parent-teacher conferences. 

But last week we really screwed up. No. Really. The kids had been off school for TWO WEEKS. That's right two weeks of  "I'm bored." "What can we do?" "Evan through a shoe at my head and now I bet I have a concussion" "I'm hungry" "I'm not hungry", "We have only been watching tv for 2.5 hours, can't we watch another show?" Anyways, by Sunday January 4 we were more than ready to send the rug rats back to school on Monday.

On Sunday the kids moaned and cried as we told them it was back to the normal bedtime since there was school tomorrow. Monday morning we packed up the backpacks and lunches in the usual frenzy of beat-the clock. At 8:35 we passed them off to our dear nanny who rushed them to school since they were late.  The husband then dropped me off at my office downtown and we were ready to start the day.

I glanced at my phone. A voicemail. From the school. It was the the secretary. Our children were in the office and today was an inservice day. No school. We had sent our kids to school and left them there when there was.... NO FREAKING SCHOOL.  The nanny had assumed that since she was late that all of the children were already in their classrooms, and hence she sent them in, unaware that (I'll say it again) the was NO FREAKING SCHOOL.

Had I utilized my family planner, perhaps I would have made a note of that. If I had synced the school calendar with my phone, perhaps I would have known that. Had I written it on a flipping whiteboard this may not have happened. Had I not been so totally and completely the opposite of organized, maybe, just maybe I would not have traumatized my sons by sending them to school on a day where there was NO FREAKING SCHOOL.

And the Parenting Of The Year Award goes to..... your's truly.

Time to get my act together.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

In My Life

2015. The New Year. A time to come up with resolutions, plans for a better year. But I think it is also time to give pause and reflect.  Nothing makes me more nostalgic than a Beatles song. I listened to it recently and tears formed in my eyes as memories of the past 12 months, and the past twenty years surfaced to overflowing.

It's amazing how people come and go in your life. They may fill your day to day for months, years or decades and then slowly fade, eventually  reduced to a Facebook status update and an old photograph. The memories once vivid and bright become hazy and muted.

 Sometimes recalling old friends overwhelms me with sadness. The loss I feel that I no longer hear their voice every day, that I no longer acknowledge their birthday, that I can no longer share the day to day minutia of my life makes me feel lonely.

Life is fluid and if I think about it, each person who has touched me with their friendship, shared their lives with me, laughed with me, cried with me, has left a mark.  They have changed me. They have made me who I am. I remember your laugh, your heartache made me softer, your triumphs inspired me, your love touched me.  So I thank each and everyone of you. Even though we may no longer share our stories and our lives you will always be a part of my history. I carry you in my dreams when you pop  up unexpected exactly as you were ten years ago. I hear you through a song, I recall you when I smell your perfume or when I think of a silly inside joke.

In my life I've loved them all.

Happy New Year. Thank you for being a part of my life!

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Advice from a Recruiter. And some cute cat pics.

Don't forget pants. 

I don't write much about my job on this blog. In fact I don't believe I have revealed who my current employer is, and for all kinds of reasons I am guessing it's probably not appropriate to share in this forum. I can tell you that I love my new company and even though I am a recruiter and only have been onboard for the past two months, I can honestly say I am excited about bringing people into the organization.

But generically, I am a recruiter for a software company and I hire sales people.Previously I have recruited for all kinds of companies, from Kelly Services, to Coors Brewing Company and major PR agencies. I have been doing this work for around sixteen years now. It's hard to believe.

Nobody goes to school to become a recruiter, right? When you ask kids what they want to do when they grow up you may hear firefighter, veterinarian, doctor, teacher or (in my case) even therapist, but you don't hear recruiter. Yet it is the perfect occupation for me. It's all about networking, listening, communicating, and talking to people from all walks of life. Yes. I have stories. Lots and lots of stories.

As a recruiter I have the privilege of sitting across the table from people who are sharing their life story with me. They are telling me about their education, there life decisions, what they have learned from various experiences, their passions, kids, mistakes, even divorces and tragedies. And often times as the gate keeper it is up to me to decide if they will be considered for an opportunity with my employer. It's a lot of responsibility really, in some ways you are holding people's "lives" in your hands.  Employment is a big deal. Without it, one can't pay their bills. Sometimes this is an individual's dream job, and I know they are laying awake at night tossing and turning and waiting for my call. I know that there are plenty of days that my call either makes or breaks someone's entire week. Making the congratulations calls are the best part of my day... and making the decline calls are the worst, unless on the rare occasion I am dealing with someone who has been a complete ass during the interview process, then it's not so hard.

So anyways, I thought perhaps I would share some of my recruiting knowledge and crazy stories, on the off chance it may actually help a few people land their dream job.

Applicants, your "To-Do" list:

  1. You have found a great job and you want to apply: While you should go ahead and apply online as directed, it can't hurt to reach out to your network for an extra "in." Check out your LinkedIn, remember that? It isn't just a waste land of bad profile photos and worthless endorsements, it's also a wealth of information and a great asset to your job search.  There you can find out who the hiring manager is and reach out to them directly. Unlike recruiters, they are not inundated with tons of applicant emails and he/she may pay more attention to your note and application. In addition you can search for other connections who may have a relationship with the company and ask for an introduction/recommendation.
  2. Speaking of LinkedIn profiles- your picture should not include anyone but you. Not your blushing bride, your new baby or even your dog. Just you. This should not be a picture of you at a club, holding a pina-colada in the air and revealing your midriff. It should be professional.
  3. Phone interview? Be prepared. It makes a terrible impression if the recruiter is trying talk to you while you sit on a park bench in front of a noisy construction site,  soothing your crying toddler. Find a quite place with no distractions. 
  4. When the topic of compensation comes up, don't avoid it. It is important to know upfront if this job is the right fit for you. If the company is paying $20K less than what you need, do you really want to dry clean your suit, blow dry your hair and do your nails, lie to your current boss and cross town for an interview?  Recruiters inquire about salary for a reason. It's to make the process more efficient and effective for all parties.  
  5. Do your research. Learn about the company and your interviewer. Come with well thought out questions. While I'm thinking of it, if you write a cover letter with your application, be sure to get the company name right. Nothing is worse for a recruiter than reading about how much their applicant wants to work at a different company, in a different state. 
  6. Send a thank you note. Handwritten or email. But something. Demonstrate that you are interested and that yeah, you are grateful for everyone's time. Please note: spell check all of your written communication with the potential employer. I can't count how many times applicants have done more harm than good by writing a sloppy note of appreciation and you would be surprised by how many people misspell detail when describing how detail oriented they are. *sigh*
Because I am hoping cute cat pictures will drive more traffic to my blog
Applicant No-Nos: 

  1. Don't be too pushy it's annoying.  You know the fifth time in a day where you leave a voicemail inquiring about the status of your application? Yeah, now you are a stalker. Lay-off. 
  2. Do not take a cell phone call in the middle of an interview. Yes. It happens.
  3.  Do not spend your whole interview asking about compensation, advancement and work-life balance. Yes, these are all important concerns, and should be addressed throughout the conversation, but too much focus on these issues upfront can lead your potential employer to feel you are only in it for you.
  4. Do not bad mouth all of your former employers. Sure it's okay to address reasons why you left an organization, but too much negativity will leave your interviewer feeling like they are talking to Debbie Downer or Wendy Whiner.  
  5. Do not send professional communication on stationary that has kittens, hearts or unicorns on it. Seriously. No Seriously.  

Thus concludes my first ever blog post about recruiting. If it gets good response, perhaps there will be more.  Until then, for those in the market: Happy job hunting! Be nice to your recruiter! :)
I would hire Neil Patrick Harris. Just saying.