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How to Avoid Being the Job Candidate from Hell

April 16, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Career, Featured Posts

Many people are out of work because they live in an area where there aren’t enough jobs to go around.  But some people are out of work for another reason – they scare the crap out of prospective employers. 

Friends of mine who have done some hiring at different companies shared with me horror stories about the resumes they’ve received and the scary candidates that they’ve met.

Based on these stories, I would like to offer a few job search tips.  Please pass these tips along to your flakiest friends, email them to your clueless neighbor, and share them with that unemployed guy your roommate is dating who has been living in your apartment for six months. 

Get the word out to everyone. If you want to get a job, there are some things you simply should not do, for example:

*  Spell the name of the company wrong that you are applying to work for — or spell anything wrong for that matter.  For god’s sake, have someone check your resume over before you send it out the door!

*  Explain gaps in your employment history with bizarre details about your personal life like “Had female issues” or “Broke up with my boss and therefore had to quit.”

*  Stroll into an interview fifteen minutes late and tell the prospective employer that you got sidetracked because there was “a big sale going on at the store across the street.”

*  Show up to an interview wearing giant sunglasses and never take them off the entire time.

*  Stink like you’ve never stunk before. Before meeting your prospective boss, work up some good B.O.

*  Talk about really depressing things so that by the time you leave, the person interviewing you wants to jump off a cliff. 

*  Tell the prospective employer that your “biggest flaw” is that you really hate working.

*  Bring a sandwich wrapped in tinfoil to the interview and start eating it halfway through.

*  Take a cell phone call during the interview and finish making your Friday night plans with your friend while the interviewer waits patiently.

*  Tell the prospective employer that the reason you want to work for their company is because you are totally desperate and right about now even a crappy job will do.

If you are doing any of these things, it’s time to reevaluate your job search approach. Fix up your resume, practice interviewing, and make a firm commitment to personal hygiene. These three small changes will dramatically increase your chances of getting a job and help you avoid earning the title of “Job Candidate from Hell.”   

Copyright © 2010 Alison James

Some of the Greatest Lessons I’ve Learned in Life Have Come from Office PowerPoint Presentations

March 6, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Career, Featured Posts

If you don’t work in an office setting and you’ve never received a 30-page PowerPoint presentation outlining someone’s latest and greatest new business idea, you might not appreciate this post. 

Everyone else will understand what I mean when I say some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life…or should I say “insights I’ve gained”…have come from PowerPoint presentations that my coworkers have given. 

PowerPoint presentations teach us that:

  • Even the most dumbass idea looks intelligent if you present it with colorful charts and graphs.  

  • It is actually possible to say the exact same thing three hundred and fifty different ways.

  • If you don’t have anything worthwhile to say, you can cover it up by telling meaningless stories.  It will take people a while to figure out that you aren’t really making any point.

  • Use big words if you want to hide the fact that you’re dumb as shit.  Throw into the discussion phrases like “synergy savings” “best practices” and “core competencies.”

  • Men are like children — If you want them to pay attention, you have to present information with music and colorful animation. 

  • Encourage people to express their opinions.  Once they get going, you can tune out and think about your plans for the weekend.

  • Almost every really good idea can be summed up in two sentences.  If it takes longer than that to explain, someone is trying to pull one over on you.


How to Craft a Memorable Goodbye Email to Send to Your Coworkers

December 17, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Career, Favorite Posts

goodbye-emailAs the year draws to an end, many people are preparing to leave their job behind and move on to bigger and better things.  Whether you’re leaving your job voluntarily or you are a casualty of someone’s brilliant restructuring project, you don’t want to burn any bridges so it’s time to write a pleasant, diplomatic goodbye email to your beloved colleagues. 

As you contemplate what to write, there are lots of important questions you’ll need to answer like “Should I tell them I’m going to miss them all even though I’m definitely not going to miss that creepy guy Jerry who sits in the cubicle near the window?  Should I leave them my contact information knowing they might email me with work-related questions six months down the road?  If I don’t have a job lined up, should I make it sound like I do to save face?” 

If you are looking for inspiration, here is a goodbye email that is one of my personal favorites (edited to protect the anonymity of the sender):      

I just wanted to reach out to all of you and say what a fantastic ride the last 10 years have been for me.  It’s truly been something special, and I have many fond memories of this company that I’ll always take with me. 

I’ve also taken with me 7 computers, 3 fax machines, 12 toner cartridges, all of the phones on our floor (no one’s using them anymore, right?), a suitcase full of staplers, scissors, and scotch tape, a color Xerox machine (which was a bitch to get past security I’ll have you know) and a box of white-out from Michelle’s office (which explains why her computer screen is almost completely white…)  As a matter of fact, I’m in the process of opening up a little office supplies shop out of my home, so I hope you all wish me well in my new venture!

In all seriousness though, it doesn’t seem possible that I’m saying goodbye to everyone here.  Though I’m leaving behind a job, what I’m leaving with is something that will always stay with me.  The friendships that I’ve made over the last decade will never be forgotten, and I want to thank each and every one of you for touching my life the way you have. 

Please take care, and thank you for being the absolute best group of people a guy could ever have the privilege of working with.

All the best,



One Way His New Job Will Affect You That You Didn’t Think Of

July 16, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Career, Featured Posts, Relationships

If the guy in your life is looking for a new job, at some point he will ask you for your opinion on where he should work.  As you consider his options, you’ll probably think about how much each job pays, what his responsibilities will be, and the type of people he’ll be working with.  But before you give him your recommendation, there is another critical factor you must consider:  What stores will be across the street from his new office?

Why, you ask?  Well, think back to the gifts he gave you for your birthday, your anniversary, and other holidays.  Do you see a pattern?  He bought all of them at one of the stores near his office, didn’t he?

Men buy gifts at the last minute.  They run out during their lunch hour on Valentine’s Day and buy the last card on the rack at CVS.  They stop on the way home from work on your birthday to buy you whatever they find at the front of the nearest store.   So, if your guy works near a Taco Bell, you can pretty much count on receiving a coupon for a bean burrito for your next anniversary.  If you don’t like bean burritos, you might want to steer him toward that job in the jewelry district.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James



Tips for New Writers on How to Break Into the Business

May 12, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Career


People often ask me how they can break into the business and get their book or magazine article published. I say “What are you crazy? Go into finance where you’ll make some real money.” But they don’t listen. They still want to do it.

While I’m sure there are many ways to get started as a writer, some are better than others. For example, I do not recommend stealing anyone else’s material or dating an agent or an editor in an attempt to get your foot in the door (unless he’s really cute…just kidding of course…don’t mix business and pleasure. It gets far too messy). Hard work is your best bet. So, here are a few key tips based on my experience.

#1: Do not tell anyone you have plans to “break into” the business. You might get arrested.  Okay, that’ s a lame joke.  But I tried.  And trying is important if you want to be a writer.

#2: Go to the bookstore and buy a book on how to get published. I admit that I’m taking the easy way out by dishing out advice like “Go buy a book full of someone else’s advice.” But people have written volumes about this topic and the information they provide is right on target. I started out by reading Publishing for Dummies and then picked up a few others. These books take you through the process from start to finish, and give you an idea of the giant mess you are about to get yourself into.

#3: Ignore all of your friends, coworkers, and family members who tell you that you are wasting your time. Let their comments motivate you. Write something sarcastic about them and get it published just to prove them wrong.   

#4: Find people to evaluate your work and give you constructive feedback.  Make sure they have writing and publishing experience. Do not rely on friends and family members for feedback. Uncle Ray might be fantastic at fixing cars but that doesn’t mean he has an eye for good fiction. 

#5: Try to enjoy the writing process and don’t focus entirely on getting published. Even if, in the end, you never get anything published, at least you can say you tried. And you might discover along the way some piece of information that will help you in another area of your life.  (This piece of advice sounds like something your mother would say because it is something your mother would say!  But moms are right once in a while.)

#6: Remember that publishing is a business. In other words, the agents and editors want to make money. When you are writing something to submit for consideration, focus on topics that will sell and ideas that will reach a wide audience of readers. If no one wants to read your book about your deformed hermit crab or your trip to Cancun, no one is going to want to publish it.

#7: Write. Yes, unfortunately it is true. To be a writer you must write. It’s easy to talk about writing and think about writing, but doing it is excruciating at times. It takes a lot of dedication and patience to sit down and start writing. And it takes confidence to keep writing. In the beginning, you will judge every word you put down on the page. You will reread it, decide it sucks and give up. Then you’ll return to it and try again. You will get frustrated regularly but you have to keep writing.

#8: Do some positive self-talk. Recite a mantra like “I am a great writer! I can make this happen.” It’s easy to get discouraged but positive thinking will help you. Recite the mantra in public and then write down people’s reactions when they see you talking to yourself.  It will make a great first article. 

#9: Read a lot. People always tell writers to read a lot. I often wonder “Does reading smutty content online count? Does reading a Harlequin Romance novel count? How about reading my mother’s page long emails that she writes in all caps like she’s screaming at me? Does that type of reading do anything for my writing skills?” I’m sure reading a lot must help us write better but I can’t tell you how or why.

#10: Keep trying. Very few people succeed overnight. Most people submit many articles and proposals and get rejected several times before they succeed. Many people decide to blog for a while to get their fingers warmed up and then eventually they find a niche topic to write about that fits their personality and they turn it into a book proposal. If you’re serious about becoming a writer, you have to keep at it even when you’re feeling frustrated.

There is no short-cut to becoming a published writer as far as I know. It is a long, arduous process. Some say it is like giving birth. The pain is unbearable but when you hold the final product in your hands, you forget about everything you went through.  You stare lovingly at your little book baby and say “I want to do it again.” Then, your significant other looks at you in horror and runs like hell.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James