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Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

The Truth, You Can’t Handle the Truth (or Something Like That)

In Random Thoughts on November 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

The truth can hurt. The truth may not be what you want to hear. The truth can be contrary to your expectations.

Our parents taught us always to tell the truth. We are taught in John 8:32: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Should we filter people from the truth? If so, when? When someone tells you that you should be open and honest, should you really tell them the truth? The bigger question is whether the other person is truly ready to hear the truth. If not, then you may be dismissed as being pessimistic, negative, a drag on others, having your own agenda, and so on.

It is only when we are open to the truth and prepared to hear the truth that it truly can set us free. This doesn’t mean that you should always just blurt out what’s on your mind, even if it is the truth. There is a time and a place to speak the truth, and the manner in which you deliver it plays an extremely important role. However, when you are debating ideas, there should be room for the truth. If you do not believe so, then do not enter into debates or conversations where you may not hear what you want to hear.

If you only want to hear something that confirms your own opinions, then there are plenty of people who will be fake, disingenuous and tell you what you want to hear. You must understand that if someone disagrees with you and believes that they are speaking the truth that they are not being critical or negative or unsupportive of your cause. They are simply telling you things the way that they see them.

If you do not agree or do not understand, then ask for clarification. Dig deeper. Foster further discussion. Try to understand where the other person is coming from and the logic behind their thoughts. Even though the person is speaking the truth, very few things in life are black and white. You may not agree, and you may have a completely different point of view that you believe to be the truth. If the issue is a critical issue that creates an impasse in your relationship, in your project or in your ability to work together, then take extra time to work together to try to come to a common understanding where you can agree to disagree.

It’s amazing how many times I have heard comments about people who speak a truth that the listener may not want to hear (or may  not agree with). All too often they are referred to as negative, pessimistic, not a team-player, etc. Most of the time, however, this is not the case. It is simply that the two people were not on the same page during the discussion.

What is even worse is when this encounter happens, and the person who doesn’t want to hear the truth being spoken then goes on to tell others that the other person is negative, etc. We all have to understand that in a pluralistic society that has been built on the right for people to express themselves freely that we have to learn that a comment that may seem contrary to the direction we are heading does not mean that the person is being negative or may not want to achieve the same goal. There are many paths to the truth, and many times each of us will take our own path to come to the same conclusion eventually. And if we don’t, that’s OK too since that is what makes us all individuals.

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The Itinerant Worker … an Asset? A Case Study

In Random Thoughts on October 25, 2010 at 7:48 pm

What do you do when you review someone’s resume? The first thing that most people typically do is glance at the experience, the number of jobs and the amount of time in each position. Many times this cursory glance eliminates the candidate if it appears that the candidate has ‘jumped’ from job to job. For our purposes, I will call this the ‘itinerant worker’. Below is a case study to make you think twice about automatically disregarding the ‘itinerant worker’ as someone who can contribute to your company’s success. To make things easy, and to eliminate any conflicts of interest from speaking about some unidentified candidate’s history, I will use myself as the case study, because many would see my resume as that of an ‘itinerant worker’.

I grew up in a generation that bucked the tradition of ‘normal’ (or maybe better said as ‘accepted’) career patterns of our parents and grandparents. The previous generations settled into a job or a career in a company with the intent to work there until their retirement. The decision to change jobs (or, God forbid, change careers) was not one taken lightly, and others usually regarded this change as a daring or foolish undertaking. If you could get a government job, then you had truly found nirvana.

I was born and rasied in southeastern New Hampshire in a blue collar, working-class family. For the most part, my generation would be the first one to graduate from college. It would have been easy to follow the career paths of my parents and grandparents. In addition, growing up in New Hampshire (with a population around 1,000,000 residents at the time), it would have been just as easy to remain isolated and insulated from the rest of the world.

However, this was not to be.

At a relatively early age, I discovered my love for foreign languages and culture. In high school, I studied both French and Spanish. I sought out opportunities to learn and to experience other cultures. Living not too far from Boston facilitated this undertaking. Although I did not realize it at the time, these experiences truly began to shape how I would think about things and understand things. They allowed me to look at every day life and experiences in new ways, even to the degree of comparing and understanding the way that different peoples and cultures speak about themselves and the things around them. For example, in English, we a are a language focused on the words ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’. When these words are repeatedly used and emphasized, there is no doubt that this affects how we look at everything in life. I understood that I wanted foreign language and cultures to be a part of my life — the more the better.

It was this love for language that began the path of what some may describe as an ‘itinerant’ professional career. During my senior year in high school, when I was applying to college, my plan was to major in French in conjunction with possibly a second major (such as business). When I made the decision to attend the University of New Hampshire, I had been accepted as a declared French major. However, there was a twist that was soon to be revealed. One day in my senior year, I found myself in the guidance counselor’s office to get a form signed, and he grabbed a packet of material in an envelop and asked, “You’re interested in foreign languages right?” Of course, I responded affirmatively. He then handed me this packet, and this packet would become an agent of change that would continue to change the way I would look at my career and at life.

I went home, opened the packet and began to think about the possibilities that this new opportunity might bring. The packet contained a stack of forms to apply for a scholarship from the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA? Really? The mystery, the intrigue, who could resist? I quickly filled out all the forms and sent it away. The rest is history. I received a scholarship unofficially called the Stokes Fellowship (named for Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes, who sponsored the legislation creating the program). For the foreign language part of the program, I had to choose a language to study that was on the Congressional needs list. Since Russian was the only available language on the list available at UNH, I signed up for Russian. This was the first twist of life events changing my direction in life, including a future career path. After graduation, I would be obliged to work for the CIA for four years. Thanks to the scholarship (which also provided a basic annual salary, paid expenses to live in Washington, DC, in the summer in addition to fully paid tuitition and books), I did not have to spend my college years wondering what I would do when I graduated from college. My future was set.

Alas, this was not to be. At the end of the summer prior to my senior year (just after I had returned from my summer in DC), the Soviet Union fell. These events led the U.S. Government (especially in the Intelligence Community) to reassess the resources that were being focused on the Soviet Union. I received a call from my mentor about six weeks prior to graduation to let me know that my position had been eliminated and that I no longer had any obligations to the CIA.

This sounds good, right? A free education, a great experience, and now I was free to do whatever I wished. However, this was another one of life’s events that made me to look at things in a new way. I now had to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life. And for what type of job did a Bachelors degree in Russian language and literature prepare me? Good question.

Thus began the travels of the itinerant worker. Over the years, I worked in a variety of positions typically for no more than 12 months at a time. Only on occasion did I stay longer in a position. I tried many things (in no particular order): waiting tables, working temp jobs, public relations, sales, administrative in a variety of companies: public sector, private sector, high-tech, etc. I even enrolled in a  Masters of Divinity program to study to become a Greek Orthodox priest. None of these endeavors would turn out to be my career path.

What all these experiences did, however, was to allow me to learn about myself and about many professions and industries that I had never considered. In each of these positions, I have learned things that would help to make me a well-rounded person who can look at things in a variety of ways in order to understand the issues better. In some positions, there were no opportunities for me to grow and to contribute. In these cases, I accepted this fact and found new opportunities. In other positions, I realized that the job, company or industry was not the right fit for me. Once again, I accepted this fact and found new opportunities. In some cases, the people that I worked with and/or for realized that I could contribute to the companies success, and I moved into positions for which I was not qualified on paper. If I do not understand how to do something, I spend the time and energy to learn how to do it (whether this means reading books, articles, etc. or attending additional training, I want to learn so that I can continue to grow and also so that I can contribute to the company’s success).

In my experience, I have worked in a variety of positions in a variety of companies. During this time, I have met many people at all levels throughout the organization. It did not take long to understand that just because someone looks good on paper (‘stable’ job history, the ‘right’ education, etc.), it does not mean that that person is the best qualified person for the position or the person who will best contribute to the company’s success.

Although it is more difficult and more time-consuming than a cursory glance at a resume, it is important that hiring managers take the time and try to elicit information, experience and potential from a resume. Just because there is a fresh coat of new paint on the house, it does not mean that the foundation is solid.

On a final thought, I would like the reader to think about the names of successful companies. For many people, Google will come to mind. Google understands what I have highlighted above. They believe in talent acquisition. They will routinely hire someone that they believe will benefit the company even if they do not have an official position/title on the company’s organization chart that meets the candidate’s resume. Hiring policies should not be limited only to matching a certain set of criteria on a checklist.

Just remember … the ‘itinerant worker’ can be one of your company’s most important resources. Take the time, set aside preconceived notions, talk to the candidate and take a chance if you believe that the candidate can make a positive impact on your company.

Finding Your Voice

In Random Thoughts on October 9, 2010 at 9:05 pm

The decision to begin blogging was something more than an acknowledgment of my ego or the thought that I have something to say that everyone wants to hear. As far as I am concerned, blogging should be approached with purpose. Unknowingly, I was searching to find my own voice and how it fits into the world. Finding one’s voice may sound simple, or to some it may even seem silly; however, this voice represents what the world of unknown readers will use to make their first (and in many cases lasting) impressions of you and what you have to say. Therefore, I wanted to ensure that I was comfortable with my own voice before sharing it with others.

Through this blog, I hope to share my voice and that whoever reads this blog will find it useful. My voice may not always be the same, and it will largely depend on the topic. This blog will blend my professional and my personal voice, my religious and my secular voice, my pop culture and my classical culture voice. Overall, these voices do blend into a single voice that is my voice.

I am officially starting this undertaking this evening. At this point, I’m not sure how often I will be adding content or even what the nature of the content will be. Whenever it appears and whatever it is, I hope that someone finds it useful and worthwhile.

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