Dealing with Grief & Creating Happiness

Losing a job is one life events that cause the most disruption. It’s right up there with divorce, death of a loved one, and major illness. Well meaning friends often say things like “this too shall pass” or “you’ll be fine” thinking that encouragement will help us feel better in the moment.

The truth is when we’re grieving we don’t want to hear about how “everything will be okay” and how good we’ll feel in the future. We don’t want someone to help us “get over it.” We want someone to help us get THROUGH it. Someone who will grab our hand and say “I’m here. What do you need?” Even when what we need is to be left alone, taking time to mourn is normal. It’s not just normal, it’s necessary.

Grief must be given it’s due, but it cannot be allowed to take over indefinitely. Keeping hurt front and center for months or years will lead to anger & bitterness. Seeking happiness becomes impossible because happiness is not something you FIND. Happiness is something you CREATE. Good or bad, we are a product of our thoughts. Our thoughts shape our actions and our actions shape our habits.

Create happiness by making a habit of believing in people. Expect the best out of them, not the worst. It is impossible to be happy when relationships are unhappy. Forgive those who’ve hurt you. Think about important people in your life today. Write down five or six reasons you are grateful to have them in your life.

Get into a habit of thinking about the goodness of life rather than the negative. It’s also impossible to be happy when only acknowledging the negative. Think about the good things that happened last week and write them down. Make this a habit.

Creating happiness leads to contentment. Look for good in little things. Even when you’re hurting there is good to be found. Being happy is not a goal, it’s the byproduct of our thinking and habits.

One more note on happiness. Don’t make wealth the center of your life. You can lose it in a minute and you certainly aren’t taking any of it with you. If your number one worry is your bank account you are investing in the wrong thing. He who dies with the most toys, dies.

As a Christian I put Jesus at the center of my life. A relationship with God through Jesus Christ is eternal and unchanging. He brings hope. He reduces stress. He helps me through change. He carries me through grief. Even in the darkest hours, He provides light and gives me peace. That is where I find contentment, even in the storm. That is where I choose to create happiness.

Postscript. After writing this yesterday I was given some news about a very ill friend that none of us ever want to hear, let alone give. Creating happiness is going to be tough for a while, and that’s okay.

Black Listed!

When considering people for employment organizations must protect themselves from liability and bad hires are fraught with risk. Candidates who have a history of any of the following are high risk hires.

  • Stealing money, property, and/or customers.
  • Harassing or threatening co-workers and/or customers.
  • Lying about ANYTHING. Especially education or other credentials or reason for dismissal from previous employers.
  • Refusing treatment* after testing positive, or testing positive more than once for banned substances (which may or may not be illegal.) *Some states mandate counseling rather than allowing termination for first offense.

While the above are obvious infractions, other behaviors that can land a person on a “no fly list” include:

  • Social media feeds and/or blogs. Click here to get an idea of what employers do and don’t want to see. Click here for my all time favorite “don’t do this if you are a job seeker” social media post. I can’t make this stuff up folks.  Research attracting employers and avoid social media pitfalls.
  • Reputation. Professional communities are smaller than you think and word does get around. One person speaking ill of another’s reputation is not a big concern. Multiple people with similar negative experiences is a red flag. A good recruiter will find “back-door” references (former co-workers not included on a provided list) and a handful of bad reviews will close a lot of doors permanently. Be nice to people and this will not be an issue.
  • References. Ideally references will be recent and a mix of supervisors & co-workers. Make sure they know you’re going to use them and they’ll support your efforts. I’ve made calls to a provided list and run into some downright negative feedback which tells me that person was oblivious to a troubled relationship. Not a trait I look for in new employees.
  • Interview appearance. Years ago I had a candidate show up in grass stained t-shirt, shoes & jeans – all replete with holes. What was this person thinking? Extreme examples aside, there are other things that send candidates to the naughty list like showing up intoxicated (it’s happened) or smelling like you chain smoked 4 cigs before the interview with the windows up. Drenching yourself in Drakkar Noir doesn’t cover that up by the way.
  • Interview behavior. I sent a candidate packing less than a minute into an interview because they leaned back in the chair with their hands behind their head the second they sat down. I’m shocked feet didn’t hit the table. This is an extreme example, but body language speaks volumes. There’s plenty of online advice for body language and interviewing tips. As a matter of fact, here’s some of mine.
  • Speaking of smoking. Healthcare costs are skyrocketing for everyone, especially employers. Employers who can provide a 100% non-smoking group to the insurer will get premium reductions.
  • Speaking of Reducing Insurance Costs. In an “informal letter to the public” the EEOC states that blanket restrictions of off duty alcohol consumption are not allowable under 1990’s Title I ADA legislation, but there is an earlier ruling by the Third Circuit court which employers could use to restrict that activity as well in an effort to reduce healthcare costs. That keg stand picture on Facebook might not be such a good idea while the courts are debating this issue.

Employers dig deep into a person’s background these days and are free to “black list” anyone as long as they comply with US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules & regulations and local EOE laws.

Don’t leave employers questioning your suitability for their staff. You never get a second chance at a first impression.

Immigration Reform

DISCLAIMER: This post doesn’t have anything to do with careers or searching for a job, it’s simply something I wrote because it’s an important topic worth consideration.

Here we are in the heart of the Presidential election and once again immigration reform is one of a handful of divisive topics. Trump wants to build a wall, Hillary wants to fast track a path to citizenship. It’s the usual polarized and partisan politics designed to cater to the extremes.

The millions of undocumented immigrants pouring over our southern border are being exploited. They work tirelessly for meager wages in the fields and slaughterhouses to make a better life for their families. They do this because as bad as conditions are for them in the US, the conditions at home are worse. They are also certainly draining our limited resources. Not because they are lazy, but because our current politics and policies keep them in the margins of society. It’s OUR fault they are crowding our emergency rooms and free clinics for healthcare. It’s OUR fault their children do not have access to educational opportunities.

They’re here, and they will continue to come here because the worst conditions here are better than in the slums of Guatemala City. Is their desire for freedom any different from those who landed on Plymouth Rock? Lest we forget unless you are of direct Native American descent, you are an immigrant.

However, immigration reform isn’t just about low-wage workers.

In technology, engineering, and other highly skilled, highly compensated jobs there is a temporary worker visa program called H1b. If you’re not familiar with H1b, boiled down to it’s essence you need to hold a Bachelor’s degree in a particular discipline from your home country to apply, and you must be “sponsored” by a company in the US.

Every year 250,000 people apply for the 65,000 available visas. It’s a pure lottery system so when you apply you have a 1 in 3 chance of getting the visa. It’s a system ripe with corruption and difficult for visa holders to be provided opportunity equal to a permanent resident or citizen.

If you’re lucky enough to be issued an H1b in April of 2017 and your country of origin is India your current wait for a Green Card is approximately a decade. We are spending tens of millions of dollars attracting young people into STEM careers while at the same time making an individual wait ten years to become a permanent resident when they already have a degree and experience.

Jokers on the left say immigrants from the south are taking jobs Americans don’t want. Clowns to the right brand non-documented immigrants “illegal” ascribing them criminals. Both sides have put so much red tape in place it’s exceptionally complicated and difficult to become a tax-paying, productive resident.

What neither side seems to remember is we are a nation of immigrants founded on principles that apply to everyone, not just those lucky enough to be born within our borders.

In colonial times you didn’t need to fill out a mountain of government forms to live in America, you just needed to get here and you were welcome to stay. At the turn of the 20th century people boarded large ships, some with nothing other than the clothes on their back and a few dollars in their pocket, and came through Ellis Island. Toward the end of the century good people risked their lives in the 90 shark-infested miles between Cuba and Key West to flee Castro’s oppression.

While you’re reading this good people are risking their lives in the deserts of the Southwest fleeing economic oppression for a shot at the American Dream. Today, on the other side of the world, good people are fleeing Islamic extremist groups who are taking over their homeland and executing anyone who does not agree with their twisted ideology.

We need to change our current immigration policies to make it easier for those who wish to come and contribute to do so. That said, there needs to be controls on this process. Immigrants MUST be properly vetted. If you can’t contribute you can’t stay – our public assistance programs are already overburdened. There should be harsh penalties for coming to the US and engaging in criminal activity. Full and equal status can wait – permanent residency should continue to be a part of the process.

I’m old enough to remember when Ho Chi Minh took over South Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands of refugees came to the United States. These were people who often left with the clothes on their back. Today they and their families are contributing citizens.

This is not about displacing American workers. This is about honoring the fundamental founding principles of the United States. Do we need to be reminded of the words inscribed at the base of the symbol of our country’s freedom and liberty?

From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Declaration of Independence states “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There’s a reason Jefferson used the word “men” and not “citizens.”

To me, this is not an issue of employment. It’s an issue of human rights and whether or not we want to welcome those fleeing oppression & economic decay for a better life in America. Our country stands at a cross-roads. The time for partisan politics is over – something needs to be done.

Being Nice

Last week I wrote a post called “Grandma would not approve.” My advice was to be nice because we need more civility in our community. It’s easy to like people we agree with, unfortunately it’s even easier to dislike, or even hate, those with whom we disagree. If you’re familiar with the Sermon on the Mount you’ll know that Christ challenged us to love our enemies. He even went so far as to say we get no reward from loving those who love us.

We’re seeing the results of not loving our enemy in society. The enemy I speak of are not terrorists with a twisted ideology of Islam. This enemy is friends who support the candidate we despise. They are strangers from across town with a different pigment in their skin. They weren’t born in the same country as us and may not speak the same language.

The question that needs to be asked is why are they our enemy? Because they look different? Speak differently?

The result of not loving this enemy causes us to dig in our heals and draw lines in the sand. Some extreme cases have resulted in horrific acts by disenfranchised individuals. Differences aren’t opposites. They’re differences. I don’t like chocolate. Does this make me wrong? Do you feel the need to post a reply calling me intolerant or an idiot because you like chocolate and I don’t?

Of course not, but that’s what’s happening. I don’t like Candidate A so anyone that supports Candidate A is automatically wrong. It’s up to me to change their mind! I shall scour the internet looking for opinion that supports my world-view that surely will get you to see things my way. What? You’re not convinced. Obviously I cannot be friends with someone so close-minded.

Ridiculous. Why can’t we respect our differences rather than fighting about them? Heaven forbid we find some things we can agree on if we took time to get to know one another and listen to another perspective.

My friend and I were discussing some of the current events and she said the problems we’re seeing in society are a matter of the heart. She’s right. The solution to our problems start with the individual. It’s time we stop bashing one another, and start respecting viewpoints that differ from us. We need to build bridges, not burn them.

Grandma Does Not Approve

A year ago I wrote a post called “Grandmother Approved” addressing why it’s not a good idea to rant on social media. Unfortunately a waitress in Colorado apparently isn’t subscribed to my feed. Her actions were atrocious and the swift action of the managing partner should be commended. The woman has since apologized, but the damage is done. A quick Google search of her name is going to pull up this story for years to come.

Even though her post went through her own Twitter account, it appears it was sent from the restaurant. There is no assumption of privacy at work for social media, email, or anything you do through their system. They’ve always had access to the inappropriate joke you sent to a friend, or the controversial site you visited over your lunch hour. Plenty of people have lost their jobs for typing something that went through an employer’s system.

There’s also always been an assumption of what you do on your own time, in your own home, is your own business. That assumption is no longer valid. We are all vulnerable to having everything we’ve ever sent land on the desk of a current or future employer (or even worse, on Grandma’s desk.)

In light of the public release of recent DNC hacks  it has become obvious our privacy does not a guarantee that sites you visit or things you say about others online or in an email will remain private. It’s time to expand my “don’t post anything you don’t want your grandma to see” rule to everything you type on a computer keyboard.

Here’s some advice for us all (myself included.) Be nice. Grandma said if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything. You never know when a less than flattering picture will be painted because of something you released out into cyberspace.

Stop the Madness

I watched the news after work with a broken heart and sick stomach. Robert David Melton is the ninth officer ambushed and killed in the line of duty in less than two weeks. I was in KCK Saturday riding my bike right through the heart of the neighborhood where Captain Melton was shot and killed in broad daylight yesterday.

I didn’t know Captain Melton, but that would not have mattered to him. He was sworn to protect and serve and laid down his life for colleagues, neighbors, and perfect strangers. This month alone eight other officers in Texas and Louisian paid the ultimate price for each and every one of us. This HAS to stop.

WE CANNOT TOLERATE ATTACKS ON LAW ENFORCEMENT!

Racism is a problem that needs to be fixed. Executing police officers is not the solution – it only puts the men and women sworn to protect us in a heightened state of alert which is going to exacerbate the problem.

We are all part of the community. The responsibility to stop this madness is on every single American. We need more barbecuing and less flag burning.

Each man listed below was a son. They were fathers, uncles, cousins. They were friends. They were colleagues. Words cannot describe the heartbreak I have for them. For us as a community. For all Americans.

Dallas Police Department Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens EOW 07/07/16
Dallas Police Department Officer Michael Krol EOW 07/07/16
Dallas Police Department Sgt. Michael Smith EOW 07/07/16
Dallas Police Department Officer Patrick Zamarripa EOW 07/07/16
Dallas Area Rapid Transit Officer Brent Thompson EOW 07/07/16
East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola EOW 07/17/16
Baton Rouge Police Officer Matthew Gerald EOW 07/17/16
Baton Rouge Police Officer Montrell Jackson EOW 07/17/16
Kansas City Kansas Police Captain Robert David Melton EOW 07/19/16

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

This list cannot grow. This divide MUST be bridged and it’s up to each and every one of us to put aside our biases, reach out, and love our neighbor.

How to avoid being hacked on LinkedIn.

Hackers are a busy bunch. I’m sure you’ve received a Facebook invitation from someone you’re already friends with, or from a complete stranger. Usually these are hackers with ill intent. It should come as no surprise hackers have targeted LinkedIn as well.

Here’s how to spot a fake.

Start by doing a Google search on the profile picture by right clicking and selecting “Search Google for Image.” Hackers often use the same stock photos on multiple phony profiles. Generally you should only get a handful of hits on the image – any more than three or four is a flag to do some further investigation. (This works for Facebook & other social outlets as well.)

Other things to consider:

  • How many connections does this person have? Once someone determines a profile is a fake they’re not going to want to connect.
  • How complete is the profile? There are a LOT of “shell” profiles on LinkedIn and while many are legitimate people who signed up and simply aren’t active users others are fakes. Either way, why connect to someone that isn’t involved in the community? The whole idea is to build a relationship and collaborate.
  • Quality of content. Many hackers are not native English speakers so when they do take time to build out a more robust profile you’re likely to find bad grammar, misspellings, and poorly written copy.
  • What does the invitation to connect say? Many legitimate people don’t change the default “I’d like you to join my network on LinkedIn” message, and I’m sure there’s some hackers who have figured out how to customize their message.

LinkedIn is a wonderful networking tool. I know I’ve helped people I’ve never met in person, and they have helped me. Just because you don’t know someone now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get to know them. Don’t be afraid to accept invitations, just be a little more aware when a new invitation hits your inbox.

If you’d like more pointers on spotting a fake, check out this article which proved exceptionally helpful in composing this post.

Orlando

Where do I start?

Where does it end?

Another ideologue selects a target ending dozens of lives and changing hundreds, perhaps thousands of other lives forever. My heart breaks for the victims, their families, and their friends.

Family members & friends who still don’t know what happened to their loved ones. They were told to come back in the morning. Prayers for closure, comfort in this time of deep loss, and healing as the days pass.

There are victims still fighting for their lives. Pray for them. Pray for the doctors and nurses who are caring for them.

We are a nation mourning yet another mass shooting. We are angry. We are in shock. We are looking for a reason. We want a way to stop it from happening again. Pray for peace.

This is an act of evil, but we cannot let evil prevail. We WILL NOT let evil prevail.

We MUST love one another, even if we don’t agree with one another.

May God be with us all.

Kids, STEM, Sausage-Fests, and why it matters.

According to the White House, there are currently half a million unfilled technology jobs in the US and that number could more than quadruple in the next two years. This is a big deal folks. Big enough that President Obama used January’s State of the Union speech to announce his “Computer Science for All” program.

I applaud the President for championing this issue. As our economy has shifted from a manufacturing base to a service base the demand for home-grown technologists is higher than ever. Unfortunately student enrollment in STEM programs is on an opposite trajectory and something needs to be done to reverse this trend.

One of the most exciting parts of Obama’s initiative is the opportunity it holds for women. I don’t know if you’ve ever walked through a software development shop, but if you do you’ll notice the cubes and offices are predominantly occupied by men. LOTS of men.

Consider the following:

  • In 2014 the US World & News Report wrote that only 13% of four year degrees earned by women were STEM related (compared to 28% for men.)
  • 2015 Department of Labor statistics show women making up 49% of the overall workforce but only 24% of the information technology workforce.
  • According to the Girls Who Code home page 74% of middle school girls express interest in STEM, but only 0.4% of high school girls select computer science.

I’m not sure what study that last bullet quotes, but it’s the most extreme example I could find to prove my hypothesis: technology is pretty much a sausage-fest.

Fortunately the Obama administration’s high level plans addresses this glaring gender gap and along with many grassroots organizations we should be able to build a more diverse technical workforce.

So what should you be doing?

If you’re in the business share your passion for technology with your kids. Get involved with robotics. Teach them to code. Build some nifty IoT stuff that will feed the dog or flash lights on and off at 3am in a sibling’s room.

Even if you’re not in the business there are local groups and programs that can help you get your kid get excited about a STEM path.

If you’re a woman who’s already out of school but interested in seeing what opportunities exist for you start with one (or all) of these groups:

I’m excited about what opportunities are ahead for people who choose a path in technology. One STEM guy made it possible to buy a self-driving car on the Plaza, landed a rocket on a platform on the ocean, and is hell bent on putting a colony on Mars. Imagine what a girl could do.

Aptitude vs. Experience

ap·ti·tude (ˈaptəˌt(y)o͞od/)

a natural ability to do something / suitability or fitness.

ex·pe·ri·ence (ikˈspirēəns/)

practical contact with and observation of facts or events / encounter or undergo (an event or occurrence).

When you consider these definitions, is aptitude or experience more important when making hiring decisions? Should we place more emphasis on natural ability & suitability or on encounters & events? As a hiring authority it’s important to understand these questions and get the answers right.

There are careers where experience has to trump aptitude. You may have natural ability as a physician, but without experiencing an education and hands-on clinical training no one will hire you as an MD. The same holds true for any career that mandates some level of higher education and/or specific training (lawyers, teachers, electricians, truck drivers, and a whole host of others.) In these cases experience is critical.

What about careers that don’t mandate education or training credentials? Examples include software development, financial analysts, sales, public relations, and many others. Does experience matter? Maybe, maybe not. When I was eight I talked a shop owner in Central City, Colorado into some free candy because I didn’t have any money & my parents were in the store next door. It wasn’t clear to me at that time, but it’s obvious even early in my life I had an aptitude for sales.

All too often I see too much emphasis being placed on experience. Consider people who don’t like their jobs. While there are other factors, lack of interest is among one of the leading causes of people to be dissatisfied with their work. They have a mortgage, a couple of car payments, and college to fund so they will tell you how much they like their work in an interview, but that is a fable. When you hire someone to perform work they don’t like their experience will be detrimental to their performance. In cases like these aptitude rules.

Experience is fluid because it is completely dependent on external factors. Aptitude is fixed because it is absolutely dependent on the individual’s psyche, intellect, morals, and values.

No doubt you’ve heard the old adage “you can’t teach someone to care.” You can teach someone to execute and they will gain experience on a daily basis. How quickly they pick up on the job is completely dependent on their aptitude. Do they have a natural inclination for the role? Do they care about the work they are doing? Are they coachable?

Aptitude + Experience = Passion. Spending years doing a job that doesn’t align with who you are as a person isn’t much fun.

Experience can be necessary. Experience can be important.

If you want a super-star aptitude is the key because experience can be an 8 year old with some free candy.