Rivers of Thought
Life, Leadership, Business & Technology
“Gampaw, can I have a cookie?” The eyes said it all. Those big twinkling eyes. How could I possibly say no? I looked down and met his gaze. His face aglow with anticipation.
“You need to ask your Grandma,” I replied with a twinkle of my own.
With that my four-year-old grandson, Jordan, scampered down the hallway toward the laundry room, calling her name with every step. “Gammaw, can I have a cookie? Gammaw, can I have a cookie? Can I have a cookie, Gammaw?”
His eyes looked up at her, open wide behind his blue-rimmed glasses, asking the question as much with those eyes as his mouth.
“Yes, we have Oreos.” Barely were the words out of her mouth when the face squished up, eyes squinting near tears, and the pleading voice said, “but, Gammaw, I want cookies”.
“Oh, sweetheart, Oreos are cookies.”
With that, he pivoted quicker than Michael Jordan in his prime and ran back down the hallway towards me, his face lit up by a smile so big it covered it in its entirety. “Gampaw, Gampaw, Gampaw, did you know Oreos are cookies?” The excitement of the news in his voice, the wonder of discovery all over his face, his hands, his body emphasizing. each. and. every. word!
Christmas. Family. Stacks of presents, wrapped in the season’s finest. Chaos. Sweet, beautiful, chaos. When they weren’t tearing open their own gifts, our grandson’s were busy helping everyone else open theirs.
“Jordan, would you like to give your present to Grandpa?” my daughter-in-law asked above the din of voices.
Jordan jumped up, ran to the tree, and retrieved a package wrapped in red and white Santa paper. He proudly made his way through the mountains of tissue paper, the sea of torn wrapping paper, and the hills of now discarded boxes and placed the package on my lap. His eyes peering up at me, the excitement of knowing what was inside was evident as he danced and hopped in front of me.
Channeling my mother, I slooooooooooooowly began to remove the tape holding the paper in place. Little hands reaching out to help, then pulling back, then reaching out, then pulling back. Finally, not able to maintain my tease any longer, I asked him to help and together we ripped the paper off.
Inside, were a set of matching mugs, emblazoned with the image of an Oreo cookie. The mugs came complete with a tray that attached to the side of the mugs. The trays designed to hold about a half-dozen or so of the sandwich cookie that had become our shared passion. The box also included two pairs of plastic tongs to hold your Oreo while dipping in your mug full of milk. PERFECT!
March of the Oreos
Wreck-It Ralph was my grandson Braxton’s favorite movie for several years (it still may be!). Every time he walked into our house, he would head straight for the cabinet with our DVD’s and pull out Wreck-It Ralph. Every time we suggested we watch a movie he wanted to watch…Wreck-It Ralph. Even when I hid the DVD all the way in the back of the cabinet, he would find it and we would watch Wreck-It Ralph. When Braxton and Jordan were both at our house we would watch…you guessed it…Wreck-It Ralph in addition to whatever Jordan picked.
For those unenlightened soles among my readers, the movie features Ralph, one of the characters in a video arcade game. Ralph always plays the bad guy, because, well, he always wrecks things…that is his schtick. Ralph believes if he could just earn a medal, he would be a hero and people would be a good guy for a change. So, Ralph goes on a quest to win a medal by traversing through the electrical connections between the arcade games.
He ends up in the game Sugar Rush where everything is made of sweets. He soon encounters the evil King Candy. In a scene straight out of the Wizard of Oz, Ralph is spying down on King Candy’s Castle while the guards march into the front gate, a la Emerald City. The guards are Oreo cookies. As they march, they chant, “O-re-o, oree-o! O-re-o, oree-o! O-re-o, oree-o!
3 PM on Fridays. Even before the pandemic forced many of us to work from home, I was working from home every Friday I could. Since the pandemic and my change to being self-employed, I work at home full time. Regardless of needing a face-to-face meeting or a virtual meeting, you will find my calendar blocked from 3 PM to 5 PM every Friday. That’s when I turn into a superhero, or a ninja, or a dinosaur hunter, or a shopkeeper. In other words, I turn into a Grandpa.
Friday afternoons are my playtime with Jordan. Now six, going on 29, he knows when the grandmother clock strikes 3, it’s time for Grandpa to come out of his office. Since receiving the wonderful gift of the Oreo mug set, we have snacked on Oreos…every Friday at 3 PM. For months, I would announce Oreo time by chanting, “O-re-o, oree-o!” as I come down the stairs. That would usually result in a “Grandpa” (said with the tone of a teenaged eye-roll, if you know what I mean), a smile, and a scurry to get the mugs out, grab the package of Oreos, count out four each for Grandpa, Grandma and himself, and then wait patiently while I poured the milk.
The three of us then sit and have our Oreos and have a scintillating conversation about school, dinosaurs, Marvel vs. DC, and why Grandpa eats his Oreos by twisting the two halves apart, eating the side without the creme, then the side with the creme, saving the milk for last, while Grandma and Jordan love to dunk their Oreos and turn them to mush (yuck!)!
Flip the Script
After months of the same script, last week I was engrossed in work. My office door was closed, but it was clearly 3 PM according to the chiming of the Grandmother clock, there was a soft tap at my door and then it slowwwwwwly opens. With a big grin on his face, Jordan greets me by quietly saying, “Grandpa, O-ree-o”.
Be an ally!
What is my point in telling you all these stories about a cookie? Are they heartwarming? Yes. Are they cute? Yes. Do they make you smile? Yes (well, at least they make me smile).
I tell you these stories because I am an ally. I am an ally for gender equality. I am an ally for racial equality. AND, I join with Oreo and their parent company, Mondelez International in being an ally for the LBGTQ community. In the face of a threatened boycott, they stand by their decision to support PFLAG and produce “Rainbow Oreos”, and I stand with them. Here’s to you, Oreo…and thank you.
When my son Brad invited me to play golf last week little did I know my dad would be joining us. Yes, I played golf with my dad last week. It was a beautiful fall day, a little crisp when we started the round but warmed up quickly. Now some of you may be thinking, “OK, what’s the big deal?” I had not played golf in over a year. In fact, I’ve probably only played three or four times in seven years since I injured my neck. So, playing golf at all was a big deal. But playing golf with my dad was a really big deal. You see, my dad passed away in December.
I don’t know when I first noticed him. On the second hole, I bladed a 9 iron, the ball shot across the green and into the woods. Brad and I spent the obligatory minute or two searching for it before I took a drop. There he was. I could see the grin on his face. The grin he would always grin when no matter how deep in the woods his ball or mine went he would walk right in and pick it up. As quickly as he appeared, he was gone again.
Teeing off on the fifth hole, I had honors. One of the few times I had honors over Brad. After hitting my tee shot, I stepped out of the tee box and stood near the cart watching Br….dad tee off. The waggle of the clubhead, the shifting of the feet, the glances down the fairway as he lined up his drive, the “well, that will play” comment said half out loud, half under his breath, as his drive went right down the center. It was dad.
It all came back. It all came flooding back. Dad loved golf. He and his buddies would play once or twice a week all spring, summer, and fall. I don’t recall ever playing as a young kid, perhaps we did. I do remember putt-putt golf, but it wasn’t until junior high that I have any recollection of going with him. At first, I was just hanging out as he and his friends played. He’d let me sneak a shot every once in a while. Soon, I could join in for a round. We didn’t play often. Golf wasn’t my thing, baseball was my jam.
As I got older and moved away from home, we would always work in a round at least once a year. Golf at Green Lake, Wisconsin’s Lawsonia became a fixture for summer vacation. The whole family would gather for a week. Neither of my brother’s played golf, so dad and I would steal away and play a round or two. It was a tough course. As the years went by, they added a second course, and it was even tougher. Dad had names for all the holes. The Quarry (duh, it had a sharp dogleg right, if you missed, you would be in the…quarry. The Cliff (a par 3 that had about a forty foot drop down to the green, with little or now fairway. And, of course, The Dolly Parton (probably the most risque thing I ever heard my dad say…it was the Dolly Parton because, well, uh…the two big hills on either side of a narrow fairway).
As the grandkids grew, a highlight of the week was going golfball hunting with Popper in the quarry (you see, I was not the only one who always missed the dogleg). Soon, they were old enough to play themselves. It became a passion for Brad. He and I would play a couple of times a week during his junior high and high school years, and, of course, we would play with my dad, a LOT.
All of this came back as Brad and I played our round. The sounds, the smells, the warmth of the sun…dad was everywhere. It had been years since dad could be out on a golf course. I’ve missed him. But with COVID, starting a new business, publishing a book, I have to say it has been a while since I spent time with him, spent time with the memories. I didn’t know how much I needed those moments until he walked the course with us.
“I keep getting interviews, but no offers.” This statement is usually followed by the asked, or implied, question, “why?”. You’ve been searching for weeks that have turned into months. You are getting multiple invitations to interview. Perhaps, you have made it into the second and third round of interviews…multiple times…only to be told no. This is frustrating, to say the least. It is demoralizing. It can be depressing! (need help to stay motivated? Read How do you stay motivated during a job search)
Let’s do a little digging.
You’ve applied to dozens of jobs. You’ve been invited to interview multiple times. First question, how many times have you made it past the initial screening interview? If you are consistently being screened out of the process at the first interview, the problem may be your resume…well, better stated, the problem may be a disconnect between the story your resume tells and the story you are telling in the interview.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the disconnect is intentional. The mere fact that your resume is getting selected for a screening interview, tells me your resume is a great match for the jobs to which you are applying. Think back over those interview conversations. Were you prepared? What story did your responses tell? Was the interview by phone, by video, or in-person? What went well? What didn’t?
You may be applying for the wrong jobs
There are two basic approaches to conducting a job search: shotgun and laser. In the shotgun approach, you are blasting your resume out to just about every job opening you see. If your resume is in decent shape and the keywords are generic in nature, you are sure to pass through many applicant track systems and be presented for human review. This is sure to land you your share of first interviews.
Ask yourself, are the jobs you are interviewing for really jobs you want? You may need a job, that is a fact. Are you really a fit for the job? The interviewer has been trained to weed out the mismatches. That is their job.
Is the job one that aligns with your strengths, values, passions, and purpose? If not, it may be difficult for you to show interest and excitement in the position. If you can’t envision yourself working at that company, performing that job, chances are the interviewer won’t be able to envision it either.
What about your presentation?
No, I am not talking about using PowerPoint or Keynote during a job interview. I am talking about how you presented yourself.
Phone: Was the audio clear and crisp? Were you in a quiet place, away from distractions and interruptions? Did you use a headset, instead of holding your phone to your ear, or worse, yet a speakerphone? Poor audio could result in a poor connection, literally!
Video: Think about the audio connection just as you would for a phone interview. Go a step further and think about your surroundings? Will the video quality be adequate, with adequate bandwidth? Is the lighting sufficient (you don’t want to look like you are in witness protection nor under intense interrogation)? What other things are in view of the camera? Do they depict the “you” you want the interviewer to see? Don’t use the virtual background feature of the video call platform, they can be distracting. Finally, how do you appear in the video? Do you make eye contact with the camera (not the image on the monitor)? Do you lean in or slouch back. Approach it like you would an in-person interview. Speaking of an in-person interview…
In-person: How are you dressed? In this time of more and more casual attire at work, this can be tricky to navigate. You want to dress to fit in, not necessarily to match. Let me explain. If the company is business attire, done. Wear a suit (suit, pants- or skirt-suit). Otherwise, dress a notch above the company dress code. If the company is business casual, consider a suit, at the very least dress at the top end of business casual with a jacket. If the company is casual, dress business casual. Even if they wear flip-flops, shorts, and rock t-shirts to work…don’t!
And, what of your skills?
Be honest with yourself, brutally honest. How do you come across in an interview? Interviews are among the toughest meetings we ever have as professionals. You are on display. You are the focal point. You may need a job. You may really need a job. It can be stressful. Our anxiety can be on full display.
One word: rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Ok, technically that was three words, but you get the point. Rehearse in front of a mirror. Rehearse in front of a friend, family member, or colleague. Rehearse in front of a stranger. Introduce yourself first or that could be awkward! Kidding! Reach out to a professional network or job seekers network and ask about mock interviews. Even the most veteran of professional can use some rehearsals with candid feedback!
Are you selling?
The answer is yes! If you are not, you should be! This is a balancing act. You want to come across humbly-confident, not arrogant, or braggadocious. However, you are selling product…that product is YOU! As in all selling, the buyer has a problem. You have a solution. That solution is YOU!
Rehearsing can help a lot in this area as well. Go beyond just rehearsing. Review your resume. What stories does it tell? Which stories apply to the interviewer? Tell the stories that solve their problem.
We are taught the use of the word “I” should be avoided (as-in I did this or I did that). An interview is not the time to use the word “we”. If you are describing a situation in which a team accomplished something, state that it was the team, of course. However, be sure to include your specific role in contributing to the success.
Preparation is vital!
Are you prepared for the interview? Even an initial screening interview should be treated as a final interview. Research the company. Know the interviewers. Understand the company’s competition.
As you do this research, think of questions to ask during the interview. Make these questions about the company, the interviewer, or the competition…not about the benefits you may receive! Never-ever ask what the company does, know what the company does.
Be prepared with your answers to their questions. When asked, “tell me about yourself”. Do not recite your resume verbatim. The interviewer can read. Summarize your accomplishments (the accomplishments that solve their problems).
Leverage Glassdoor to learn about their interview process and some of the questions they may ask. Be prepared to answer them. Rehearse your answers…out loud!
If there is a question you hate to answer, be prepared to answer it! Rehearse your answer until you cannot get it wrong! Turn a negative into a positive!
Beyond the first conversation
If you are bringing your “A” game to interviews in these five areas, I have no doubt you will move forward in the process…and soon!
Next time: If you are making it to the final round of interviews and still aren’t getting an offer, I will offer some strategies to help you get that offer in hand!
Have a question? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to share my thoughts.
Many of these ideas are featured in my new book, Amplify Your Job Search – Strategies for Finding Your Dream Job! Learn more and order your copy by clicking on the cover:
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