Small gestures of any type, really might make all the difference in our crazy world. While this might seem quite self-explanatory, I still think it’s both worth mentioning and worth reflecting on. Now that it sounds like I have said something profound, when others before me have said the same, I can ramble.
In a time where people rob, beat, cheat, steal, and lie to their best friends…we still find it amazing when someone does some small gesture of kindness. Why? Do we really think everyone else is a jerk and suddenly out of the fog of life comes our hero to pick up the pice of paper we just dropped…or to let us into their parking spot…or to hold a door open. No, but we react like that is the case. The “reward” of recognition, praise, and flattery is so ridiculously high that anyone within a small radius should be instantly uplifted and motivated to do the same, should the opportunity arise. Eventually, given enough time, more people will do good deeds, the “reward” will decline because it won’t be as rare. Less people will do good deeds, but there might be a happy medium where we end up with more people doing good than there are today. Yes, I just used free-market economics to loosely say that if we are not given enough praise, we’ll go back to being jerks. Sigh.
Maybe people don’t like the reward of praise? Maybe people stopped holding doors and saying “good morning” because they hated all of the fawning. I have a feeling that might be incorrect. I know enough people who hold the door open for people and then passive aggressively say “You’re welcome!!” after they are ignored. Despite a small sample size, I don’t think praise turns people off, but someone else can get the hard data and come back to us with answers.
In the mean time, I’ll try to keep doing acts of random kindness. Maybe you will join me.
The black hole of HR (e)mailboxes
How do we fix it…for everyone’s sake?
Okay, so this is somewhat of a pet-peeve of mine. It has to do with the lack of contact from people –or more specifically, companies.
First, let’s add a little context.
It’s not just me. I know a nice handful of people that have said, the most frustrating thing right now is the lack of contact with a perspective employer.
From the view of the applicant:
Did you get my email? I mean…I can’t call, I’ll look desperate. I shouldn’t call, you are basically begging people not to call about the job in the ad. I would apply again, but then I might not look like I am detail oriented. Maybe I’ll look like I’m just blindly sending resumes out. Maybe they wanted a Word document and not a PDF. Or was it the other way around? The job is still up on the site. Damn. I must not have what they are looking for. Maybe I need to be more aggressive? No. Everyone says be more aggressive…if I was the person on the other end of the emailbox, the last thing I need is another aggressive person. Sigh. Let’s look at the next job posting and move on.
We all understand the job market is not fantastic right now. We understand if you have one position open and 500 people apply for it, that possibly 400 of them weren’t even qualified to begin with. The very idea of contacting everyone to say “Thank you for submitting your resume…” or even an email blast “Sorry. No job for you!” (reference: Seinfeld “Soup Nazi”)…is it really that much to ask? It is if you need to reply to everyone individually.
Or is it?
In my past life, I created solutions for businesses using technology. Sometimes these were very complex, and sometimes these were simple. Often, the most useful things for people were really the things they already had at their fingertips. It’s just that no one ever bothered to ask them what they needed, or what might help them for daily tasks. THIS is for those of you out there in HR who are buried in email right now.
Two things will save you: Folders and Rules. If you want to get crazy we can talk about groups/distribution lists later.
- If you are using an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or something similar, you can move onto the next step. If you are using your personalized email address, I HIGHLY suggest you create a new email account just for resumes/applicants.
- I implore you to take a few moments and look into using “rules” in your email client of choice. Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, Thunderbird, Apple Mail, and others all have the ability to set rules. My number one suggestion to you would be: create a rule for all incoming email to auto reply with a message similar to this: “Thank you for applying at XYZ Company. We receive many resumes and we cannot individually reply to everyone. This email was auto-generated to let you know we received your email, but it in no way means we think you are awesome and should begin working here tomorrow. Please don’t call us. You will be contacted if you are a potential candidate. Thank you.”
You get the point. Nothing fancy, it just let’s people know you got it.
If you have ever used an “Out of office” auto-reply before, this is the same idea…but you set the message and you are obviously in the office.
Okay, if that has not scared you off, I would like to offer a few other tips that might make things a little easier for you. We will start to get a little fancy here.
- First, the easy part that most of you are likely doing already. Create a folder for each open position and name it something like “Position A”. Now you could simply move all of the emails into that folder individually, or you could have the computer do it for you.
- This is NOT perfect, but it usually works very well. Most email clients, like the ones I previously mentioned, can read your email for you. This comes in handy for this very situation. If applicants put the job title in the subject line of the email, you can automatically file new email to a folder. Now, every message that comes in with “Blah blah blah Position A blah blah blah” will automatically go to folder Position A.
- In rules, you can select “with subject” and then enter the text you want the rule to find. After that, it will ask you what you want to do with those emails, you pick the action “move message” and then select the folder Position A.
- You can take this a step further if your email client allows for rules that search for “Position A” in the body of an email, or some even let you search for it in the attachments. If they put the title in their attached cover letter, the rule should find it.
- Searching for lines of text is not flawless. I recommend moving all email that comes in that the previous rule misses, into a folder called “Unfiled”or “To be filed”. This is a catch-all folder that you want to monitor and clean up. You don’t have to do this, you can just use your inbox as your catch all folder too.
Still not scared off? Awesome! This last list is just to give you some ideas on how far you can go without doing any “programming” or getting too technical. Dream big! Everyone has a different work style and companies have their own policies. This gives us many many different options for setting things up. For ease of explanation, I will use a method of how I might do this if I were in charge of the resume mailbox. Also, just a word of caution…always test your rules out by sending email to yourself from a different email address (work, personal, friend, etc).
- In the job posting, encourage people to put the position title in the subject line.
- In the job posting, encourage people applying to multiple positions to submit separate emails (one for each position).
- Create parent folders called “Open positions”, “Closed positions”, and “To be filed”.
- Create folders for each position available.
- Put all job folders into each applicable parent folder.
- Create rule 1: Reply to all inbound emails with a default message. (it is possible to customize this message for each job position, but that is a lesson for another day). Ignore all emails from firstname.lastname@example.org (to prevent email loops).
- Create rule 2: Filter and file all inbound emails based on job descriptions.
- Review “To be filed” folder twice per day and move emails accordingly.
- When a position has been filled, “close out” the folder (How?)
- Collect all email addresses from emails in folder for “Position A”.
- Set all addresses as a distribution list called “Position A”.
- Send closing email. BCC the distribution list “Position A” and BCC email@example.com to announce the position has been filed. This email creates a marker for when you announced the position was closed. All additional incoming emails will show up after this email.
- Move folder to “Closed positions” folder.
Spending the small amount of time it would take to set up some of the basics here, would truly do your applicants a favor. The more steps you can take, the easier your workload becomes…and the more time you can spend reviewing those 100+ qualified applicants. It also gives the impression that your HR department, and the company itself is detail oriented, and considerate, just like the people you want to hire.
Reboot #2: Chicago
Let’s catch up. I know I know. I’ve said this before and then we never do. The reality is: my blog feels like a giant albatross of a to-do list when it should be a quiet place for my ramblings that 10 people might read. The good news is that I can actually say I met one of those potential 10 in person (T-dizzle!), so it’s not like everyone is a stranger anymore. Just 90% of my readership. FYI before we get reaquinted, I might have a thing for the word albatross right now. I’ve used it three times this week. Today is Monday. Do the math.
Okay here are the last, oh, let’s say 7 years in a nutshell:
I worked full-time. I went from consistently blogging, to blogging very little. Going back to school…and finishing. Volunteering thousands of hours for something that sometimes seems silly. To cancer scares. Surgery playtime/funtime. A relationship that became a marriage. Grad school. Moving to WordPress; and moving to NY. Traveling (half-way) across the world in one summer of continent trips. Now moving to Chicago; without a job.
All of that was intended to be about 100 posts over a period of two-three years. Instead there were about a dozen. So now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s move forward and onto new things and new adventures.
I’ve moved to Chicago with my wife and dog after some interesting adventures in NYC. We’re back in the midwest and closer to home…and closer to family. We are still a one income home, but hopefully that will change soon. I’m trying to career hop right now and I’m trying to rebrand myself after rebranding from MI ->; NYC. I’ll save that explanation for next time. This was just all about catching up. :)
For all or for one
There are a handful of times in my life where my passions threatened to tire me out or wear me down. I focused on this issue or that issue, distracting myself from homework, assignments, life, whatever –you get the point. Maybe it’s a process at the office that negatively effects everyone…but not enough that management realizes that it’s a big deal. I focus less on my daily tasks and more on the larger issue that everyone else wants to overlook -because it’s too big, or it will never be fixed. I know not everything can be fixed. Those situations, while frustrating, are generally logical. You spill milk, you don’t usually lick it off the counter…you clean it up and pour another glass. I know, it’s a broad metaphor, but it works.
The problem is when something that actually could be fixed and is possible to be fixed, won’t be fixed. That makes me freak out a little. Okay, let’s be honest. I become obsessed. I really like to know answers to “Why?” questions. Especially “Why not?” ones. The “Why?” questions help broaden your horizon…I’ve always like those. I’m sure I was really annoying as a child too. The “Why not?” questions explain the barriers. I tend to obsess over those. I generally don’t try a direct approach to remove them…actually if I get a reasonable answer, I actually accept them. However, I have this crazy notion that I can find a way around them. I don’t know why, but that’s what I think I can do. Unfortunately, regardless of whether I can or cannot accomplish such a task…obsessing over it tends to be a problem.
As I reach the edge of frustration, I often find advice from people I trust…people I respect. The advice is usually the same: rather than focus on others, sometimes you just need to look out for yourself. Logical. Reasonable. It explains my barrier, but I don’t like it. Maybe it’s what I need to hear. Maybe I need to follow said advice. So why don’t I? After years of wondering about it, yesterday I had a moment of clarity after getting that advice one more time.
The problem is: that advice, it’s the answer to a “Why?” question…and a “Why not?” question. Why is something like this, and why hasn’t it been fixed yet? Sure people may have tried, but the probelm persists. Why? Because we tell people to accept the problem and move on. We tell them to look out for themselves -or they already do and they aren’t working on it anyway.
The advice might be something I need to hear, but not because I’ll stop working on the problem. Problems, like onions, have layers. This advice, it’s just another one of the layers.
Two quick points.
First, after my last blog post I was trying to catch up on some blog reading and I found something. What? Let’s just say: I found a better way to say 90% of what I wrote. The Beginner’s Guide to Zen Habits: The 5 Principles of a Profound Workday I highly recommend reading this post.
Second, I’m not sure why I didn’t comment about this, but the picture of the pocket watch? It’s one of my favorite watches. It was my 93 year-old grandfather’s watch. He use to wear it on a leather strap that was taped at one and had a safety pin at the other. It’s not a valuable watch, but it’s a priceless memory. I don’t know why I needed to point it out…but I did. Now you know. :)
Not unlike most people, I’m a little weird when it comes to time. Where I am a little different is how I feel about time. I love to obsess about not obsessing about it; while desiring to help other people to obsess about it. That doesn’t sound weird at all, right? Right. Totally makes sense, right? Right. Great. I’ll just post this and we’ll save me the time of trying to explain what the heck I am talking about. *click* Okay, I’ll exaplin this…but it’s going to be a long post. Grab a drink, maybe a cookie and hunker down.
Other than filling space, what the hell am I talking about? Time, all manifistations of it. P.s. when I woke up today, if you told me that I was going to pull the word manifest out and use it in a sentence, I would have laughed. Alas, I digress. So I’m interested in watches (cheap, expensive, digital, analog, pocket or wrist); time management (books, articles, blogs, videos, podcasts and random stories from strangers on the subway); software that does something with timers or time…or hardware, fancy or cheesy things we use; listening to people talk about time management issues. I’m sure there are other things related to time that I am not going to talk about (like Swatch’s 90s alternative to standard time and time zones, @beat. That was cool!).
So that seems pretty much like a ton of other people. The weird part? I hate deadlines, time constraints and well anyting that makes me feel constrained in general. Yet, I like helping people figure out tools or ideas to help them set and maintain deadlines. So some mild deductive logic would make you think that I’ve just been looking at all of these things because I need help with time mamagement and none of them really work for me. Yet, since I remember them or tried them, I can just tell other people about them. That would be only partially true.
At some point many years ago, I was interested in the mechanical nature of time (plain english: watches). If you’ll let me get philosphical for a moment, you’ll see where I am going. I think. Later I realized that while I do still love watches for their mechanical nature, I was really just interested in a human’s attempt to visualize time in different formats and their desire to work with it. Or shall we say, within its constraints. Afterall, we see time as something fixed, if we base it on single day relitive to that individual. Time as it is specific to you. All of these time management ideas, gagets, software and gurus are trying to help you work within your constraints. That’s interesting to me.
People from all walks of life try to operate within this accepted constraint. It’s interesting to see how all of these different people deal with that. It’s a puzzle that give some insight into how we think and act. I don’t know what it can be applied to outside of time, but I just like learning about people…so I watch, I learn, I think. Many people would say I waste time; I’m starting to think I’m just trying stop accepting time’s constraints. Okay, I waste time too, but hear me out…
We need some standards. Need might be a strong word, but go with the flow for the moment. We need to ask “Are you available tomorrow at 3?” You need a way to know if you are, and you need to say yes or no. I need to say “I’ll see you at 3.” and know that you’ll mostl likely be there. I used “need” because I personally do not like the chaos I’m suggesting if we forgo all concepts of time. However, some of us…or maybe all of us need to forget time exists.
…pause… So I was interrupted last week while writing this and now I am trying to collect my thoughts and regroup. Let’s see how I do getting back on track. …play…
What we don’t need? To pay attention to time. We can’t control it. We cant even control what we do with some of it. We think we can, but we can’t. You cannot plan and schedule everything. We should all schedule time in our days to do nothing or something if your heart desires. Eventually, the free time we schedule should become the bulk of our schedule, so we start scheduling less.
I know it’s not practical, but wouldn’t it be nice to work during the hours you are productive? If only that we’re possible. So you see, I’m one of those people who schedules almost everything, but accomplishes very little on the days I don’t schedule my free time. It’s not that I want society to become the procrastinator’s dream…well I guess I do. Is that really so bad?