Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Notes from "First, Break all the Rules"

12 Questions to measure the strength of a workplace:

Do I know what is expected of me at work?

Do I have the materials and equipment to do my work right?

At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?

Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

At work, do my opinions seem to count?

Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?

Do I have a best friend at work?

In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Deal Sites

I am no longer checking deal sites. FatWallet, SlickDeals, TechBargains, etc. no longer have a place in my Google Reader feed.

Why this apparent about face?

  • I now have much more time to read the things that are actually important. Honestly, business blogs, world news-feeds and my lifestyle blogs are much more useful.
  • Since I'm not being bombarded by advertising, I'm no longer tempted to buy something that I will never use. Ugly clothes, another backpack, a second toaster, a 2 GB CF card, a George Forman grill . . . I really don’t need these things. More than once, I’ve found myself wondering, “Why did I order this? It must have had a rebate or something . . .”
  • Deals just aren’t resalable anymore. You used to be able to find something on SlickDeals, submit the rebate and make 40-50% profit on eBay. Those days are long-gone as the deal sites have become more popular. If you find a deal that can be resold on eBay, chances are that 100 other people have the same idea and market forces will drive the prices down.
  • It is much more worthwhile to buy quality products (albeit at higher prices) which save me time in the long-run. A great example of this is my wireless router. I spent $80 on this bad boy four years ago and I have NEVER had to reboot, reconfigure or update it. My time is much too valuable to spend a Saturday morning fussing with a wireless router.
  • Honestly, has reasonable prices on most everything and I’d much rather go there than spend half an hour to save $5, only to deal with some obscure merchant.

Do you use deal sites? Do you find yourself buying things that you don’t need, just because they’re on sale? Share your stories below, or on the Facebook feed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strengths-Based Resume

I was doing some thinking this weekend about resume creation. One of the problems I've run into when sending my resume out to consulting firms is that they see me as an engineer, and it's really hard to make a convincing case that they should hire me as a consultant, when my resume is focused on my history of working for John Deere in various positions.

I'm considering reformulating my resume into a strengths-based resume. (I got the idea while reading "Soaring on Your Strengths," a book about leveraging strengths to build your career.) A strengths-based resume which enumerates strengths that would be helpful to someone in the position for which you are applying and lists accomplishments under each strength. Rather than listing places of employment and chronicling work experience, work experience is sorted and presented as evidence that you are able to leverage a given strength.

For example, in my strengths-based resume, I could write:

  • Worked with the desktop software development team to coordinate data exchange with the embedded software team.
  • Created a process to review documents more thoroughly between departments.
  • Presented healthcare benefit information in an easily understandable format.
My thought is that this would give potential employers much more of the information that they're looking for, in a format that allows them judge a candidate more on strengths than on for whom they have worked.

What do you think? Is there anyone in recruiting who has seen something unconventional like this submitted as a resume?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thoughts on Working Remotely

I've done quite a bit of thinking this weekend about remote work arrangements, and specifically how to evaluate whether tasks can be (effectively) done remotely. My thought is that tasks that can be most successfully done remotely have three qualities:
  • They can be done asynchronously; they do not require multiple peoples' attention at the same time.
  • They are not urgent; they do not require immediate attention.
  • They do not require access to specialized equipment.
Asynchronous tasks can be done without involving two or more people at the same time. Unfortunately, some activities simply cannot be done asynchronously. At Deere, we have monthly in-person performance-review meetings. Part of the value that these meetings provide is the opportunity to sit down with your supervisor and discuss goals (both career-related and within the current position) and to converse about job progress. Could this be done via email? Perhaps. Could this be done effectively over email? Likely not.

Likewise, tasks which require someone's immediate attention are difficult to do remotely, whereas tasks which do not require immediate attention can allow for more flexibility. For examples, let's turn to the medical profession. A doctor at a hospital might have a rather inflexible schedule. When he hears "Level 1 trauma. ETA 6 minutes by air." come over the loudspeaker, he has very little time to prepare and must respond immediately. Next week is not an option. Conversely, a primary care physician can schedule appointments with some flexibility. As an example, let's suppose I need to have a physical examination for work, before the end of next February. The doctor has quite a bit of latitude in scheduling me; in this case he is quite flexible. How flexible work is determines whether a person can work on a schedule different from his colleagues'.

Finally, many jobs require specialized equipment which could inhibit the ability to perform a role from a remote location. A physicist measuring the electrical properties of crystals would probably need highly specialized equipment, which could not easily be transported to a remote location. An astronomer, however, might be able to remotely access the computer she uses to control a radio telescope and could do her job just as easily from her office as she could from a beach in Australia.

That said, when identifying activities which can be done remotely, one must ask the following questions:
  • Do I need to collaborate with others in real-time? How often must this happen? Can this be done effectively via technology such as videoconferencing?
  • Am I required to respond quickly to critical issues? How timely must my responses be? Can I be available via cell phone or blackberry to respond to these issues?
  • Do I require specialized equipment to do my job? Is there a way that I can access this specialized equipment remotely?

I'd be interested to hear what readers think about this. I'd like to find a good way to evaluate activities, based on these dimensions, to see if they can be done remotely.