Weekly Rundown

Two weeks in a row. I’m still feeling good about it. Calling it Weekly Rundown, that is.

What I’m Reading: Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks. Coming out of John McPhee a few weeks ago, I wanted to give this one a try. Concise, fun, and a little “out there”, I’ve enjoyed reading it so far. One thing that did throw me off a bit was the intro by Elizabeth George, who derided some authors who could only produce one book. Whereas I do respect a person’s opinions, I think anyone who has at least sat down to write a book, even if it’s just one, deserves some consideration for their efforts. But that’s a minor thing, at least for me.

What I’m Listening To: The Nothing But Major Gifts Podcast. This episode deals with keeping Major Gift Officers. So I’ve actually worked for two organizations, building a development program from scratch for them. After about ten months at each place, they felt the results weren’t worth the money or effort that they were putting in. Best practices require one-to-two years for that level of relationship building. After my last stint, mired in aggravation and dealing with an unresponsive ED, I decided that I’d never take on a fledgling development department again, unless perhaps a contract was in place for a period no shorter than three years. Anyway, if nonprofit administration is interesting to you, check out the Veritus Group and their podcast.

What I’m spending my time with: Meditation. I’ve been trying a new 3x daily meditation practice (most days… I’m committed to every day for a month. Working my way up to it.) I was recommended this practice from a yoga teacher I practiced with last week. In theory, it’s a way to rest your internal programming – pushing through all of the negative buildup that accumulates. Here’s a link to Elephant Journal for an article I found, but it doesn’t really explain the three times daily practice.

Other things of interest to me this week:

  • Seth Godin’s post on mediocrity, and how corporate policy is about consistency, not necessarily excellence.
  • Society for Psychical Research. A leftover from Mary Roach’s Spook, I was curious to see what kind of activities that they investigated.
  • Dude – a brief history from The Atlantic. “You know… if you’re in to the whole brevity thing.”
  • Trying some new recipes in the kitchen, this time experimenting with Indian cuisine. My first endeavor will be this weekend making Aloo Matar, but here’s a link to some basics.

The problem with applications

I’ve filled out a lot of applications. Online mostly, though still some on paper. The online revolution and conversion was ushered in between the times that I was looking for work. In 2003 I fell into my first after high school job, which I don’t even recall if I filled out an application for. It was an office manager for a nonprofit, and until the office space we had was lost, I thought it was going okay. I learned a lot about business skills in that one-man shop, though maybe not enough.

After that, I started what could have been my first career I suppose you could say. Had I not resigned to pursue professional acting, maybe I’d still be there. It was a service organization affiliated with NASCAR, and while I have many problems with the way some of that went down, I can remember fondly my times at the track.

I think from there I learned that work should be fun. Could be fun, at the very least. I was a highly effective worker, and given increasing responsibility during my time there. (In five years, I received two promotions and was asked to handle several increasing complicated aspects of the job – mostly related to computer systems or point-of-sales.) And I had fun, mostly. When the crowds started slowing to the races, then concern gripped the corporatists – cut budgets, watch the bottom dollar, churn out the returns. 

But we’re not robots. Not cogs that, if tightened, can produce two more widgets. (This theme has been coming up recently – the production of widgets.)

Long story short, when it was time to go, I knew it was time to go. The exact phrasing of my last meeting with my boss and my boss’s boss (Office Space anyone?) went like this:

My Boss: “It’s either you quit your outside activities and commit to this, or you should go somewhere else.”

Me: “I have my two weeks notice ready. Let me grab it for you.”

Now my outside activities were my first volunteer endeavors with community theatre, and I had requested a day off a week after the Daytona 500 to be involved with a professional production of an opera. Whether or not either of us were right or wrong is just a lot of conjecture, but we both did what we did. 

I go by my gut a lot. Every job I’ve known it was time to leave, I went ahead and did it. Sometimes without a safety net. Thankfully, I’ve managed to land on my feet. (This time is a little harder, as I’m more keenly aware of the level of debt I’m carrying from my student loans.)

So when I go out and look for those jobs, and I come to a website where I am filling out over and over again the same information. Name. Number. Address. Work history. Education. Etc., etc.

Exactly why we have resumes. And, truth be told, nearly all of my jobs have come through people I knew, or people who knew those people. Not online applications. So what then is the point there? 

When they ask you in their application (posted online, and responded to in the same way by every applicant) “what about this company makes you want to work here?” – the most likely honest answer is “if hired, you’ll give me a paycheck.”

Company culture isn’t bought into in an online application. And good companies will have trouble matching good applicants in that way. 

Companies – if you want good workers (and to retain them), be different. Don’t be another online application for a hopeful paycheck.

Applicants – if you want to work for a good company (and do well), be different. Bring your talents to someone who will take those talents, and let you use them. Let you fail. And then help back up.

To study

My life is a rolling, rollicking mess. It’s not what I would have chosen for myself, but there are few things I would change.

I’m a student, trapped in my cell of a dorm and buried under a pile of homework with seventeen research papers coming due.

My core classes are finance, relationship studies, home economics, nutrition and psychology. My electives are philosophy, history, and yes, even writing.

I’m a student of life, as we all are. I’m no longer enrolled at University, but I still learn. There are stacks of books piled around my room, and I juggle them, figuring what to read and what to store away for later.

Right now, business is winning. I’m delving into classics that I have lying around: The AskEngage Now!, and Achieving Excellence in Fundraising. I’ve returned to the nonprofit sector after a year’s hiatus, and it’s been a whirlwind.

So, study I must!