28 August 2015

I'm Sad for the Roanoke Victims but I'm Also Sad For Bryce Williams

It has been a long, exhausting and sad week for Roanoke, VA, to say the very least. I met my spouse in Roanoke. Our daughter was born in Roanoke. Most of my friends and news/advertising/marketing colleagues still live and work in the Roanoke Region. I lived there for eight years and when I think about my time in Roanoke, it holds so many beautiful and fun memories and despite the horror that has occurred there this week, that is the way I will choose to remember it.

I would be lying though if I said I haven’t been thinking about the events that took place there this week because I have. I know most people have, and for most of us living in our world today, I wonder if we haven’t become numb to these types of incidents: another day, another shooting and the world keeps spinning ‘round and ‘round. Are we sad? Yes. Do we mourn? Yes. Do we unite and pull together as a community and nation when these types of things happen? Yes.

But do we ever really, truly do anything about it to hopefully minimize the risk of it happening again? Do we ever address the true issues and problems that cause these types of horrific scenes? Do we ever learn and grow from our own man-made history of violence and recklessness?

No. Not at all. And this is what needs to change in order for our society to ever be able to move forward as a safer nation for everyone. We all mourn and grieve and say, “This is so senseless. These types of things have to stop!” but it seems like that’s as far as it goes in the conversation of guns, gun safety and mental health awareness in our country. For the most part we put our heads in the sand and foolishly think, “As long as it’s not happening to me, it’s not my problem.”
But it is.
Roanoke could easily be your town or city that becomes affected next. Then what do you do? How do you feel? It could easily be your son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister. If we haven’t learned anything as a country shouldn’t we at least know by now that violence doesn’t discriminate?
We should, but we don’t. And we definitely do not address the real issue of why these types of shootings continue to take place: mental health, awareness and illness.
When I first heard the news of the shootings, I was so angered (mostly at Vester), sad and disappointed. My mind was reeling and all I could think was how horrible of a person Vester must have been to do such a horrible thing. Then his background information started to be revealed...
This was a man who by all accounts, was severely and uncontrollably mentally ill. So much so, that even his former employer, WDBJ, forced him to seek mental health counseling at one point as a part of his agreement to be employed by the station because they became witness to his illness and the potential for an unsafe working environment. In every conversation I've heard about Vester from current and previous co-workers, employers, friends and even some of his own family, Vester suffered from severe mental illness. It was a mental illness that unfortunately, was never diagnosed properly let alone treated. 

He's been called "nuts," a "piece of shit," a "loser" and so much more but really, what you should be calling him is an unfortunate product of the society we live in today. Don't be mad at Vester; be mad at the legislators and lobbyists who make it their job every day to fight against gun legislation. Don't be mad at Vester; be mad at the insurance companies who work hard every day to do the least amount possible in providing mental health coverage in their plans. Don't be mad at Vester; be mad at the glorification of guns and violence in our society. Don't be mad at Vester; be mad at the legislators and lobbyists who crawl in bed with the gun companies to help keep both their pockets fat and happy while people continue to die.
Does this excuse what Vester did? No. Not at all. Am I on his side? Absolutely not. But how can we post and talk about empathy, love and understanding on social media and in the news in the wake of this awful event and not try to understand the real reason why these shootings happened? When will society, legislators and gun owners STOP squabbling about gun rights and the issues that don't really matter and deal with the real issue at hand - mental illness and our societies and government's inability and position to not deal with it and do something to make it better. What is it really going to take for change to be made in our country where this issue is concerned??
Now is the time to start having these difficult conversations. Now is the time to start facing this uncomfortable topic and issue head on. Now is the time to finally bring mental illness and awareness to the forefront. We must force our government and local/state legislators to ACT NOW for the betterment of our society as a whole. We cannot continue to keep brushing this issue under the carpet. How many more people have to die for the right thing to be done?
I feel so much sadness for the victims. My heart aches for them but I too feel sadness for Vester. When I think about the victims, I say, "What could their lives have been?" and when I think about Vester, all I'm left thinking is, "Could this all have been avoided if he had gotten the help he needed?"



03 August 2015

Working Mom, Interrupted. 4 Tips to Help You Keep Your Work Game on Point When You're Not Working (But Want to Be)

Working Mom, Interrupted. 4 Tips to Help You Keep Your Work Game on Point When You're Not Working (But Want to Be)

Up until the end of June this year, I’ve been a working mom since Madeline was born four years ago and that’s the way I love my life; unapologetically, confidentially, an enthusiastic working professional. However, with our move to Pittsburgh, my work mojo has been put on pause as I get used to a new city and look for a job. For now, I’m a SAHM until the right offer comes calling.

If I’m being honest, not being employed full time has been a hard transition. To be fair, I have enjoyed being home with my daughter. I’ve been able to experience all the wonderful and amazing things she learns, does, and discovers on a daily basis that I would have missed out on if I’d been in the workplace but still in the back of my mind, I long for the days of the 9 to 5, fast-paced work environment and outlets to use my creativity that I just don’t get being home all day with my child.

When you’re unemployed, whether it’s because of a move, unforeseen circumstances or the decision to make life changes, it can be challenging to break into a new work scene, especially when you’re new in a big city. I’ve been fortunate to be gainfully employed for the majority of my professional career but I’ve also been met with times of uncertainty and unemployment.

During these difficult times, it’s easy to become discouraged and lose hope but DON’T. Truly, every cycle of employment and unemployment is a season so today, I’m sharing four of my best kept secrets to help you keep your work game on point when you’re not working but want to be.

LinkedIn Should Be Your Best Friend.

This one should go without saying but it never ceases to amaze me how many professionals don’t have a LinkedIn profile. I know that not everyone is into the social media scene; if you don’t want to keep up with a Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook account, fine, I get it but if you are a working professional, especially one who is job hunting, you should have a LinkedIn account and here’s why…

LinkedIn is a robust social media tool that offers you free marketing and exposure of your resume, skills, background and experience. You have the opportunity to upload samples of the work you’ve done, accomplishments and most importantly, gives you the chance to receive written recommendations from peers and supervisors regarding your work prowess. This can be a huge plus when you’re job hunting and interviewing because you can direct any potential employers to your page for these recommendations and samples. The important thing to remember here is if you’re going to have a LinkedIn profile, you need to make sure it’s a complete profile. This is not something you can do halfway as it’s a reflection of your business acumen. As a hiring manager, there is nothing worse than finding your profile on LinkedIn only to see that’s it’s incomplete or missing information. To get an idea of how your LinkedIn profile should look, I invite you to take a look at mine here.

LinkedIn also offers the following programs for job hunters:

A.      LinkedIn Answers & Group Conversations. This is the perfect way to keep up with what’s going on in your industry while getting the 411 on who’s hiring, which companies are the best to work for and for purposes of networking.
B.      Recruiters. A large majority of LinkedIn’s membership is comprised of head hunters and job recruiters who do nothing but look for their next perfect addition to the workplace. I’ve been contacted several times from recruiters and while the positions haven’t worked out, I know that I’m being found.
C.     Job Search Function. Gone are the days of companies spending thousands to advertise their open positions in newspapers. Where are they posting? You guessed it – on LinkedIn. The job search function is amazing and for Premium members, you can refine your search to salary range, specific job titles, cities and even specific companies.
D.     LinkedIn InMail. For Premium members, you have the opportunity to contact the hiring manager directly regarding jobs you’ve applied for and to find out additional information on a specific position you’re interested in. I’ve done this numerous times and have even received a job interview from contacting the hiring manager directly. It does make a difference!

Wake Up, Get Up and Show Up.

Being unemployed does not mean you’re on vacation. I know it’s tempting to sleep in and enjoy a little leisurely time in bed but don’t. Set your alarm to wake up around the same time you would if you were waking up to go to work. This helps to keep your body in its routine but more importantly, helps you to stay focused for the day ahead.

Get up and get ready. Shower, dress, make your bed and coffee and do all the same things you would normally do in the morning if you were employed. Since I’ve been home with my daughter, I’ve found that if I get up and get going like I normally would if I were employed, I have a greater sense of accomplishment and drive for the day ahead.

Show up. Set a daily goal for yourself on how many jobs you’re going to apply for and follow through. For me, I make it a point to apply for 3 jobs per day. You may want to do more but try not to overload yourself. By the time you research a company, write cover letters and actually apply for each position, it can all be very time consuming and draining so make sure to set a daily goal that you can accomplish.

Clean Up Your Social Media Presence.

When you have a job and a steady paycheck it’s easy to become complacent with how you conduct yourself online but this can be to your detriment when you’re unemployed. It’s a 99.9% guarantee that any potential employer, boss or HR manager will be doing a Google search to find out who you are online. What will they find? You shouldn’t be posting these types of things anyway, but no potential employer wants to find pictures, tweets or status updates from you talking about how drunk you were at a party last weekend nor do they want to see your private domestic squabbles being played out in a public forum.

Clean up your act.

Choose profile pictures and cover photos for all of your accounts that are professional and friendly, and while you can never 100% delete anything from the Internet, go through the feeds of each account to see what things you may want to consider removing from your pages and profiles. These things may be found anyway through other sources but trying to minimize the risk is worth the work. Don’t be na├»ve in thinking that potential employers will not look you up online. This is a foolish and stupid mistake. As someone who has been a hiring manager, I can tell you that when I receive a resume, the very first thing I do is Google you to see what I find.

Think of it this way…

If you’re applying to be the social media manager for my company’s social media accounts, do you really think I’m going to hire you to be in charge of my company’s online presence and manage its online reputation if I see that you’re a hot mess online yourself?

Bottom line, grow up and clean up your act.

Network! Network! Network!

When I worked for the Chamber of Commerce, the one most important thing I learned about business was the power and influence of networking. This couldn’t be a more important tactic to utilize on a daily basis then when you’re unemployed and looking for your next opportunity.

Pull your contacts and resources to find out who you’re connected to and who may know someone in your industry that can help you get introduced to the decision makers for each position for which you’re interested. Again, this is where having a LinkedIn account becomes very beneficial. For each position listed on LinkedIn, there is a graph to the right side that shows how you may be connected to the company with either the hiring manager or other employees from the company through connections you already have. If you see that there is a potential connection, email the contact you already know to see if they will introduce you online. If I receive a message from someone I know and respect highly in my industry who wants to recommend someone they know for a position open within my company, I’m ten times more likely to listen and take notice. Never underestimate the power of your connections.

If you’re new to a city, visit your local Chamber website to find out what business networking events are going on in town that you are able to attend. Simply showing up to events, meeting new people, introducing yourself and making connections in person is a great way to get your foot in the door while cultivating business relationships. You never know who is looking to hire or if a company is in the middle of a reorganization and looking for new talent, you may be just what they’re looking for. Chance favors the prepared mind. Often times, many companies hire in this way before a job is even posted so stay connected and get out there!

Being unemployed and having your work game interrupted is never easy but with a few basic skills and resources as the ones mentioned above, you can be on your way to securing that next great gig. What tips and advice would you share for other working moms who are unemployed but looking for work?