BIG Announcement: This Blog has Moved!!!

announcement

Hark!! What’s the fanfare all about?

The trumpets are announcing that Victor’s blog has moved to VictorFont.com!!! That’s right, my own domain!

You may have noticed I’ve been a little light with my writing lately. It’s taken several weeks to get the server up and all of my content transferred over. And that’s not all! I’ve also completely made over my family’s site: FontLife.com and got my wife’s blog site up and running at SusanFont.com. I’ve been a real busy beaver. Having my own server gives me much more creative freedom. I’ve already implemented a lot of new features on my blog and even created my own WordPress template. If you stick with me, you’ll see many more improvements and a few surprises in the months ahead. I’m planning two more sites. One is for mobile users, but more on that later.

I want to thank you all for the encouragement you’ve given me since I started writing seriously. Here are some interesting stats. Since January, when I started this blog, there have been 5,217 visitors to this site. October was the busiest month with 2,778 readers. The busiest day was Tuesday, October 5th when I posted the article about my favorite Android apps. That day there were 426 readers!

Your emails and comments are the greatest blessing of all. You’ve left 48 comments on my 80 posts. I can’t count the number of emails I’ve received. But even when I haven’t got something quite right, I am always thankful when someone steers me in the right direction. Feedback is a gift and none of this is possible without you.

So please remember to update your bookmarks. If you are a subscriber to this site, you information has already been transferred over. You don’t need to do anything. Once again the new address is http://www.victorfont.com. New multimedia posts will start showing up later today.

Red Skelton Pledge of Allegiance

On January 14, 1969, comedian Red Skelton shared his thoughts about the United States Pledge of Allegiance during the CBS broadcast of his television program, The Red Skelton Show. Even though the video is embedded in this post, his message is so thought provoking, that I’m including a partial transcript as well.

Red Skelton Pledge of Allegiance–January 14, 1969 / CBS

“I’ve been listening to you boys and girls recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it seems as though it is becoming monotonous to you.

If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?”

I

–me, an individual, a committee of one.

Pledge

–dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.

Allegiance

–my love and my devotion.

To the flag

–our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there’s respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody’s job!

United

–that means that we have all come together.

States

–individual communities that have united into 48 great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose; all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that’s love for country.

And to the republic

–republic, a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it’s from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

For which it stands, one nation

–one nation, meaning “so blessed by God”

Indivisible

–incapable of being divided.

With liberty

–which is freedom—the right of power to live one’s own life without threats, fear or some sort of retaliation.

And Justice

–the principle or quality of dealing fairly with others.

For all

–For all, which means, boys and girls, it’s as much your country as it is mine

And now boys and girls, let me hear you recite the Pledge of Allegiance…

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country and two words have been added to the pledge of Allegiance…UNDER GOD. Wouldn’t it be a pity if someone said
that is a prayer and that would be eliminated from schools too?

Displaying WordPress 3.x Custom Post Types on a Page Other than Home

If you’ve ever used WordPress, you know that all of your posts appear on your home page. This is the default behavior for WordPress. You can create content pages for details like an About page or Contact Me page. And if your template supports it, you can even customize a content page with a look and feel that’s different from your default template. But posts are a different animal. Suppose you want to display a specific post type on a page other than your home page. How do you do it?

This is a challenge I set out to solve for myself. I’m in the process of moving my WordPress.com blog to my own self-hosted site. I want the control and customize-ability a self-hosted solution offers. As a facilitator of the Lead Like Jesus servant leadership encounter workshop, I receive 3-weekly devotional messages from the Lead Like Jesus organization that I want to publically post on a page other than my home page. I want to display them on a dedicated devotional page accessible from the main menu. Easy? Yes, if you know how to do it!

Thanks to custom post types, this task is very do-able and quite easy if you have the right guidance. But finding the right guidance on the web has proven to be very difficult. While I found many pages about custom post types, I found very few that give clear directions on how to create and display them. It’s really as simple as 1-2-3. Here are the steps:

  1. Register the custom post type in WordPress
  2. Create single-<custom-type>.php
  3. Create page-<custom-type>.php

Register the Custom Post Type in WordPress

Registering the custom post type in WordPress requires editing your theme’s functions.php file. To do this:

  • Select Appearance from the dashboard
  • Choose Editor from the Appearance menu
  • Select Theme Functions (functions.php) from the right-most column labeled Templates
  • Add the following code to the bottom of the functions.php file.

/** following code block added by vmf on 11/12/2010
*   registers custom post type 'leadlikejesus'
*   caution: if template gets updated by developer
*   this file may get overwritten and you will have to restore
*   this functionality. Make sure you save it someplace safe.
*/

// execute the create_post_type() function
add_action( 'init', 'create_post_type' );

function create_post_type() {
 
 // create an array for all of the display prompts
 $labels = array(
        'name' => __( 'Devotionals' ),
        'singular_name' => __( 'Devotional' ),
        'add_new' => __( 'Add New' ),
    'add_new_item' => __( 'Add New Devotional' ),
    'edit' => __( 'Edit' ),
    'edit_item' => __( 'Edit Devotional' ),
    'new_item' => __( 'New Devotional' ),
    'view' => __( 'View Devotional' ),
    'view_item' => __( 'View Devotional' ),
    'search_items' => __( 'Search Devotionals' ),
    'not_found' => __( 'No devotionals found' ),
    'not_found_in_trash' => __( 'No devotionals found in Trash' ),
    'parent_item_colon' => ''
 );
 
 // create an array for the arguments to pass to register_post_type()
 $args = array(
    'labels' => $labels,
    'public' => true,
    'publicly_queryable' => true,
    'show_ui' => true,
    '_builtin' => false, // It's a custom post type, not built in!
    'rewrite' => array('slug' => 'devotionals'),
    'capability_type' => 'post',
    'hierarchical' => false,
       'supports' => array( 'title', 'author', 'editor', 'comments', 'trackbacks', 'sticky', 'excerpt', 'custom-fields', 'thumbnail', 'page-attributes' )
 );
   
    // register the new custom post type
    register_post_type( 'leadlikejesus', $args);
   
    // flush the rewrite rules to prevent 404 error
    flush_rewrite_rules();
}

// end custom post type 'leadlikejesus'

  • Click the Update File buttondevotional
  • Refresh your browser. You should now see a menu for the custom post type on the dashboard menu.

I’m not going to detail the parameters for the register_post_type() function. You can learn all you’ve ever wanted to know about the function here at codex.wordpress.org. And of course, unless you want to name your custom post type “leadlikejesus,” modify the code to your liking before updating functions.php.

Create single-<custom-type>.php

The single.php file displays your post when you click the view link on the post listing page or the View <Custom-Type> button on the post editing page.

devotional2 devotional3

To create this file, copy the single.php file you’ll find in your template’s main folder to single-<customer-type>.php. <custom-type> is the name of the custom post type you registered in WordPress in Step 1.

Create page-<custom-type>.php

The page-<custom-type>.php file is the actual template you will assign to the page you create to display your custom post types. Unlike the single-<custom-type>.php page we created in Step 2, this time you’ll have to create your own page template. In most cases, the template you are using doesn’t have a model from which we can copy a new file. Luckily, the great folks at WordPress.org have provided a great starting example in this article. My customization of the article’s code is illustrated:


<?php
/**
 * Template Name: Lead Like Jesus Devotionals
 *
 * Selectable from a dropdown menu on the edit page screen.
 */
?>

<?php get_header(); ?>

  <div id="container">
   <div id="content">
<?php
$type = 'leadlikejesus';
$args=array(
  'post_type' => $type,
  'post_status' => 'publish',
  'paged' => $paged,
  'posts_per_page' => 10,
  'caller_get_posts'=> 1
);
$temp = $wp_query;  // assign orginal query to temp variable for later use  
$wp_query = null;
$wp_query = new WP_Query($args);
?>

<?php

 get_template_part( 'loop', 'index' );?>
   </div><!-- #content -->
  </div><!-- #container -->

<?php get_sidebar(); ?>
<?php get_footer(); ?>

Copy this code into your editor and change the “Template Name:”  line in the comment block at the top of the file.

/**
* Template Name: Lead Like Jesus Devotionals
*
* Selectable from a dropdown menu on the edit page screen.
*/devotional4

The Template Name appears in the Page Attributes Template dropdown when you create your new display page. You also need to search for the following line of code:

$type = ‘leadlikejesus';

Change the ‘leadlikejesus’ to the name of the custom post type your want to use. This is the name that you registered in WordPress in Step 1 and the name you’ll use to replace the ‘<custom-type>’ placeholder in Steps 2 and 3.

After you change the Template Name in the comment block and the $type variable, save your file as page-<custom-type>.php in your template’s main folder. As with the file you created in Step 2, <custom-type> is the name of the custom post type you registered with WordPress in Step 1.

If you are satisfied with the look and feel of your template, there’s nothing more to do to this file. If you want to use a different look and feel from the default template, you’re on your own to add the code to this file.

Pulling It All Together

You’re almost done. WordPress has taken care of all the heavy lifting behind the scenes and leaves the creativity to you. All you have left to do now is create a standard page and assign the page-<custom-type> template we created in Step 3 to it. Save it and view the fruit of your labor.

There’s one word of caution with all of this. If the developer of your template releases an update, you will lose these changes if the functions.php file gets overwritten. Make certain you save the code you added to functions.php in a safe place so you can add it back in again in the future if you need to. An alternative is to create your own child template if your template supports it. But that’s another lesson all together.



A Simple Yet Advanced Lesson in Android Programming—Changing TabWidget Tab Colors

Sometimes it’s the little problems in life that can be so challenging, but when solved are the most rewarding. As such is my experience with changing the colors on the Android TabWidget object. I spent several days and nights searching for documentation, reading the responses to questions other developers have posted, trying different things to get this simple problem solved and finally the “AHA!” moment came last night during my sleep. I woke up this Sunday morning at 6 AM with the solution on my mind. So for about an hour and half before going to church, I solved one of the greatest programming challenges I’ve faced in many years—how to change the tab colors on the Android TabWidget and keep the dividers in their proper place.

Some of you might have this figured out already, but from the great number of unanswered questions on the net, I’ll assume most haven’t. There’s so little documentation for some of these more esoteric Android features. The books I’ve read are good to get someone started with Android, some are even helpful. But I haven’t found one yet that teaches the common tasks programmers are likely to do when they’re coding.

The answer to my question was right in front of me the entire time. I found the solution in the Android SDK. I’m coding my app for Froyo or higher. The minimum SDK version for this solutions is 8. I have not tested to see if it works on the previous SDK versions. You’re on your own for that.

To illustrate what I’ve done, take a look at the two emulator screen captures below.

grey_tabs
Fig 1. Standard Grey Tabs

The goal is to allow users to choose between a dark (Fig. 1) and light (Fig. 2) color scheme. The choice is made in a CheckBoxPreference object through the Preferences framework.

App-prefs

As soon as a user selects or deselects the Light Colors checkbox, the tab screen changes color immediately upon returning to it from Preferences.

orange_stripeIt’s really quite easy to control the tab colors. What’s not so easy is to control the orange bars that display to the left and right of a tab when it is pressed. Actually, they can be changed but it’s not recommended to do so because you have to access them through the internal Android API (com.android.internal). Doing anything through the internal API is risky. You’ll never know how the internals will change over time which can cause your application to break and security risks are inherent.

To modify the tab colors, first copy tab_indicator_v4.xml or tab_indicator.xml from android-sdk-windows\platforms\android-8\data\res\drawable to the res\drawable folder in your project. If you don’t have a res\drawable folder, create it and then copy the file from the SDK. The content of the file is:

<!-- Copyright (C) 2008 The Android Open Source Project

     Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
     you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
     You may obtain a copy of the License at

          <a href="http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0">http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0</a>

     Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
     distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
     WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or
     implied. See the License for the specific language governing
     permissions and limitations under the License.
-->

<selector xmlns:android="<a href="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android">http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android</a>">
    <!-- Non focused states -->
    <item android:state_focused="false" android:state_selected="false"
        android:state_pressed="false"
        android:drawable="@drawable/tab_unselected_v4" />
    <item android:state_focused="false" android:state_selected="true"
        android:state_pressed="false"
        android:drawable="@drawable/tab_selected_v4" />

    <!-- Focused states -->
    <item android:state_focused="true" android:state_selected="false"
        android:state_pressed="false"
        android:drawable="@drawable/tab_focus" />
    <item android:state_focused="true" android:state_selected="true"
        android:state_pressed="false"
        android:drawable="@drawable/tab_focus" />

    <!-- Pressed -->
    <item android:state_pressed="true"
        android:drawable="@drawable/tab_press" />
</selector>

The @drawables in this file control the appearance of the tabs in their various states, i.e. pressed, focused, selected, etc. These drawables are .png graphics located in your project’s drawables-hdpi directory. You can get the graphics referenced in this file from the drawables-hdpi directory for the platform of your choice in the Android SDK. You assign this file as the background resource for your tabwidget.

I created two versions of this .XML file. The first is for the dark theme, the other for the light theme. The only difference is the name of the @drawables graphics I’m using in each. To make the blue selected and unselected .png graphics I made copies of tab_selected_v4.9.png and tab_unselected_v4.9.png from the SDK. Then I used the color replacement tool in Photoshop to create the new images.

The following Java example is a custom method I wrote for my app’s tab activity to set the background resource to either file based on the user preference IsLightColors.

 protected void setTabColors() {
 
  /**
   * Before we do anything, determine saved value of IsLightColors
   */
  MyApp app = (MyApp) this.getApplication();
  IsLightColors = app.RetrieveBoolean(getString(R.string.LightColorsKey));

  // set the color scheme and resource based on IsLightColors user prefs
  int tab_indicator = IsLightColors ? R.drawable.tab_indicator_v4_light : R.drawable.tab_indicator_v4;
  int layoutColor = IsLightColors ? Color.WHITE : Color.BLACK;

  View myLayout = findViewById(R.id.main_layout);
  myLayout.setBackgroundColor(layoutColor);
  // set the background resource for each tab
  for (int i = 0; i < tabHost.getTabWidget().getChildCount(); i++) {
    tabHost.getTabWidget().getChildAt(i).setBackgroundResource(tab_indicator);
  }  

 }

This code snippet references app.RetrieveBoolean. You won’t find this method in Android. This is another custom method I wrote for an app-level extension library. Using this method, we obtain the value of IsLightColors from the Preferences framework and the rest is apple pie!

I certainly hope this has shed some light on the tab color issue and helped you in your quest to customize your tabs.

Using Twitter to Enhance Your Job Search

Did you know you can use Twitter to enhance your job search? That’s right, Twitter! And what’s more, you don’t even need a Twitter account to do it. By now you’re probably thinking, “Okay, he’s lost it. How in the world can a 140 character text message help in my job search.” Stand by. You might be surprised.

Search.Twitter.Com is a direct link to the Twitter search engine. You do not need a Twitter account to use it.  Today, many recruiters and hiring managers tweet about available job openings, sometimes before they are posted to job boards. The tweet usually contains a tiny hyperlink to the actual job description and application process.

For example, go to search.twitter.com and type “IT director jobs” without the quotes in the search criteria textbox. Click the search button and within seconds you’ll return a list of tweets in a results set that matches your search criteria. I performed this search today as I wrote this article and on the first page of results I see a listing for an Assistant Director IT Project Management at Ernst & Young in Cleveland, OH. As you scan the results list, you will literally find pages of job posting tweets containing your search words, many of them just minutes old. The Ernst and Young position was tweeted just 3 minutes before I did the search.

So how do you capitalize from Twitter searches if you find a job posting that interests you? Make sure you say in your cover letter, “I saw your tweet.” Why? Because using Twitter to announce job postings is a bit…let’s say…unconventional? It’s very likely the recruiter or hiring manager who sent the tweet raised a few eyebrows amongst his/her peers when s/he told them what s/he was doing. By saying “I saw your tweet,” you are accomplishing at least two important validation tasks.

First, you’re making the recruiter or hiring manager look good. That person went out on a limb to try something unconventional and it worked. They received responses from qualified candidates for their job posting of which you are one.

Second, you’ve validated the recruiter or hiring manager’s ideas. If for nothing else, you just made that person’s day. You’ve confirmed that their unconventional approach works. How? You’ve applied for the position. By validating them, you’ve probably just moved to the top or near to the top of the list of prospective candidates. Or at the very least, they will certainly take a good, close look at your qualifications.

The news outlets have been reporting that this country has never in history suffered such a deep recession and such a flat recovery. With reported unemployment hovering over 9%, there is a lot of competition to find your next position. Thinking out of the box these days is essential to finding your new role. Be creative and use every tool at your disposal.

Best Practices for Job Hunting in the 21st Century—Part 3

This concludes the list of job hunting best practices as discussed by a cross-functional networking group that met at Colonial JobSeekers, Cary, NC on Monday, October 18, 2010.

Personal/Handwritten Communication—Corresponding on nice stationary in ink is mostly a lost art today. Yet, nothing says I care more than sending someone a handwritten thank you note. If a recruiter invites you to apply for a position, send them a note. If you have a telephone interview, send a note. If the source of the phone interview is local, drive over to the company and leave a note. If you have a face-to-face interview, leave a note at the reception desk for the interviewer on your way out the door.

Positive Perspective—No matter what, do your best to keep a positive attitude. Did you know, when you smile when you speak to someone on the telephone, the other person can actually sense it? A positive attitude communicates confidence.

Reconnect with Past Relationships—If you are like me, you probably have a drawer full of business cards you’ve collected from people over the years. When was the last time you touched base with any of them? For that matter, when was the last time you touched base with any of your friends. I recently reconnected with my best friend from high school on LinkedIn and a friend on facebook I used to play with in the park when I was five. Keep in touch with your past. You’ll never know who may be able to open the right door for you.

Remain Hopeful—This goes hand in hand with a positive attitude. British clergyman Charles Kingsley said, “The men whom I have seen succeed best in life always have been cheerful and hopeful men; who went about their business with a smile on their faces; and took the changes and chances of this mortal life like men; facing rough and smooth alike as it came.” All of us who are unemployed are facing rough times; and sometimes, very long rough times. But the as the sunrises each day, there is hope on the horizon within our grasp. As do the United States Marine, we need to adapt, improvise and overcome obstacles as we accomplish our missions and win our battles. And we need to do it cheerfully

Small Business Groups—Get out and meet with small business groups. In the Raleigh area there is a group called TAFU which means To Avoid Future Unemployment. This networking group is a blend of both the employed and unemployed. Each person stands and gives their 45-second elevator speech. People throughout the room take notes and if anyone can help, they’ll meet offline to discuss possibilities. There is also a Raleigh Christian Business Man’s group called the His Biz Network. When I attended that one, I received several leads to conduct Lead Like Jesus servant leader encounter workshops. Don’t spend all your time online. Search your area for small business groups and get out and meet people.

Social Networking—A lot of doors have opened for me through social networking. I’ve received invitations for public speaking, opportunities to connect with new people and have become a member of the NC Executive Roundtable which meets weekly. As of the time of this writing, I have over 5,100 direct connections on LinkedIn, over 800 friends on facebook and 242 followers on Twitter. Through networking, I have been able to help others find jobs. Networking, whether the online social kind or face to face is about helping others. The more people you help, the greater the rewards.

Teach Webinars—Do you consider yourself an expert in your field? Do others? Do others come to you for advice? If this sounds like you, then teach webinars. If you’re on a shoestring budget, sign up for services such as Freebinar and conduct free webinars for up to 150 people. Marketing yourself as an expert in your field can gain you valuable contacts and open many doors of opportunity for you. With so many contacts on LinkedIn, I’ll be doing this myself in the near future.

Temp Jobs—Don’t turn down temp jobs if they come your way. One gentleman in the discussion group dressed as the Statue of Liberty to advertise Liberty Tax Preparation Service in Raleigh. He stood on the street corner waving to passers-by. He made more contacts while performing this temp job than he could ever imagine. Don’t be afraid to humble yourself for a temp job. With the holiday season fast approaching, there will be Christmas tree marketers looking for seasonal temp workers all over the country. Take one of these jobs if you can. The first person you sell a holiday item to or help them carry it to their car, could be the CEO of the company you’ve been targeting.

Trust God—For many, this is the toughest one of all because God asks us to accept His will by faith. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We can’t see or touch God and He doesn’t speak audibly to us. He speaks to us through His Word and the impressions of His Holy Spirit. Missionary Kyle Sutton in Australia says, “The greater the thing God wants to say to the believer, the quieter He says it.” Proverbs 3:5–6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths.” God never does anything that isn’t for our benefit. Learn to listen for His still small voice and trust Him with all your heart that whatever it is you are going through right now will work out for the best. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. ”—Romans 8:28, (KJV)

Volunteerism—There are many ways to volunteer your time to stay connected with people and possibly land the job of your dreams. You’ll need to search out the opportunities in your own geographic location, but the following suggestions have worked for people in the Raleigh area. If you are in IT, volunteer for organizations that accept donations of old computers. In Raleigh, we have an organization called the The Purple Elephant. Information Technology resources that have volunteered for that organization have landed positions because part of the job is to call IT leaders in various companies to solicit donations. As the conversations progress and relationships are built, current job openings are discussed and the volunteers are invited to apply! Another great place to volunteer is Habitat for Humanity. Many corporations plan outdoor “give-back” days with Habitat. Volunteering for Habitat gives you access to the where and when resources from a target company may be building a new home. The day they are there, you go work as well. This allows you to work side-by-side with the company you are targeting to learn as much as you can about their culture and hidden job opportunities. It also gives them an opportunity to see what you are made of. The last volunteer suggestion for this post is to volunteer at your local convention center if there’s one near you. Convention centers are always looking for volunteers to work registration tables for different corporate events. Working a registration table gives you access to virtually everyone attending. This is networking to the max. Strike up conversations, give your 30-second elevator speech and you’ll never know where it can lead.

Wrong Hits? Check Out Company Anyway—In spite of all the best practices we’ve discussed, there will be times when a completely unsuitable job description hits your inbox. Check out the company anyway. Receiving information about job postings means the company is hiring. Check out their website. Even though the posting you received is unsuitable, there may be a very well suited job for you on their website.

Best Practices for Job Hunting in the 21st Century—Part 2

This continues the discussion of job hunting best practices as discussed by a cross-functional networking group that met at Colonial JobSeekers, Cary, NC on Monday, October 18, 2010.

Giant Fortune Cookie—Also Known as Thinking Outside The Box, this one got the person hired. A candidate did her homework and found out the hiring manager of the target job in the company she was targeting absolutely loved Chinese food. The candidate had a giant fortune cookie made and sent it to her prospective hiring manager. Rolled up inside the fortune cookie—her résumé! The candidate’s creativity so impressed the hiring manager that she was called in for the interview and got the job. I landed a big job once thinking outside the box as well. Instead of sending out my normally formatted résumés, I rewrote my résumé as a colorful tri-fold brochure on very expensive paper I bought from Paper Direct. The front cover said, “Look no further. The best has just applied!” I was hired for a 2-month contract assignment at AT&T Consumer Sales Division which was extended to more than a year. The hiring manager said he received over 200 résumés for the job on the first day. As soon as he saw my brochure, it went right to the top of the heap and I landed the position. Thinking outside the box will get you noticed, hopefully in a positive way.

Information Interviews—One of the best ways to gather information about your target companies is to ask someone. Information interviews involve talking with people who are currently working in your target field to gain a better understanding of an occupation or industry—and to build a network of contacts in that field. The person who brought up this best practice locates popular coffee shops and lunch destinations proximal to the companies he’s targeting. At break times he visits these shops and strikes up conversations with people working at the company to learn whatever he can about their culture and hiring practices.

Job Fairs—If you’ve never been to a job fair, it is an experience not to be missed. There’s nothing better than meeting recruiters face-to-face. At least twice, I’ve been given 45-minute interviews right on the spot, both at the same job fair. There’s something about adding your appearance and personality to the presentation of your résumé that attracts peoples’ attention. The job fair I attended was in Boston. Senior-level recruiters were present from companies all over New England. The job fair targeted IT staff positions. I achieved IT Director status in a major corporation and hadn’t done any hands-on development work for about 4 years, but I went anyway. I visited the booth from ESPN and started discussing my background. The senior recruiter asked me to step outside with him and told me he had just received requests for three Senior Director or Executive Director positions, but that the positions had not yet been approved. He wanted to get me in his queue so we could be ready to move forward should they get approved. We talked for almost an hour. A month later, I received an email from the recruiter explaining the positions had been cancelled. At the same job fair, a recruiter from a company in New Hampshire said my resume was the senior-most IT résumé he had seen all day. As he looked it over, he mentioned that there was a discussion at his company that they might start recruiting to hire a CIO in the near future. He said the discussions were in the early stages and their was nothing concrete yet. Nevertheless, we spoke for about 45 minutes. The job never materialized. The point to all this is that when you attend a job fair, prepare and dress to be interviewed on the spot.

Keep Skills Current—When you finally land an interview and a recruiter or hiring manager is holding your résumé in his/her hand and asks, “What have you been doing since you lost your last position?” What are you going to say? It’s critical at this juncture that you demonstrate that you’ve been actively keeping your skill set current. For my example, even though I haven’t worked as a hands-on application developer for some time, I am keeping both my development and management skills current. I’ve taught myself how to write applications for the Android operating system, popular in the smartphone and tablet PC world. For the management skills, I have been appointed to leadership positions in volunteer groups and am a member of an executive round-table. What are you doing? How can you show that you’ve been keeping your skills current or learning new skills during your transition period?

Networking & Seminars—Attend as many networking events and seminars as you can. In the Raleigh area, they are all over the place. Are you on LinkedIn? Do you belong to groups specific to your geographic location on LinkedIn? If not, you ought to be. Networking has led me to land public speaking engagements and meet some very interesting people I might not have met elsewhere. Most networking events are free, but there are some that charge a nominal fee. The idea is to introduce yourself at a networking event and then get alone with a person of interest over a cup of coffee later to discuss synergies. It’s kind of like speed dating with the intent of landing a position. If there are no networking events in your area, start one. You might be surprised where it could lead.

Pay It Forward—The concept of paying it forward was popularized in a 2000 movie of the same name starring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt and Jay Mohr. The idea of paying it forward has been documented to exist from as early as 317 BC. In his 1841 essay Compensation, Ralph Waldo Emerson,  wrote: "In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody." Paying it forward is giving to others. As we get out and network, keep in mind that it’s not all about you. It is all about what we can do to help others. Case in point is something that happened just a few weeks ago in the IT Special Interest Group I lead at Colonial JobSeekers. A women visited us for the first time after being out of work for a number of years to raise her family. Reentering the job market after such a long period of absence is not easy. She formerly worked as a corporate technology trainer and wants to get back into teaching. Later that evening I received an email from another member of the group who said he landed an interview with, of all things, a tech training company. I asked if there were any opportunities for this new person. He forwarded her résumé to the hiring manager he was interviewing with. She landed a contract position teaching SharePoint. When we put the interests of others ahead of our own interests, paying it forward works. You’ll definitely receive dividends.

Well, it looks like I miscalculated how long I would have to write to share all of the best practices we discussed. So it looks like there’s going to have to be at least a Part-3 to this series. We have 11 more best practices to go and I’ll do my best to cover them in one more article.

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