Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dealing with "the Confidence Issue" in Your Career

Last year I got a book proposal from Katy Piotrowski, a career counselor in Ft. Collins, Colorado, who had hit upon a novel approach for a job search book series, and one that resonated with me. In her experience, she found that many people looking for jobs faced a formidable hurdle: fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of talking to strangers, fear that on some level kept them stuck right where they were. So she proposed The Career Coward’s Guide series.

The approach is warm, friendly, and nurturing. She breaks the task of finding a job into small steps, and then breaks that down even further into “baby steps.” Before you know what’s happened, you’ve landed a life-changing job!

The first book in the series is The Career Coward’s Guide to Interviewing, and it’s available now. The second is The Career Coward’s Guide to Changing Careers. It went to the printer yesterday and will be available in a month. Other titles will follow.

Of course, not everyone appreciates, or even gets, what we’re trying to do. Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, reviewed an advance copy and railed on us for insulting people by calling them cowards. (Apparently in his day, that was about the worst thing you could call someone.) The title is being ironic; you know, like calling someone a Dummy or an Idiot. Nobody really believes they are too stupid or scared to succeed in life. But everyone will admit they can use a little help from time to time.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Publishing Skills

Skills, which seem to get a lot of emphasis from HR types, recently found new appreciation when Napoleon Dynamite extolled their virtues. It's true: If you can identify and articulate your skills to a potential employer (and provide examples that prove you've got those skills), you'll stand a better chance of getting the job.

I recently had to evaluate myself as part of my annual review. Part of the evaluation was listing the skills it takes to do my job. I've got a leg up on this because every darn book I edit talks about how to identify your skills. So I came up with this list. Keep in mind that many of these are skills that I have developed over my career. All I started out with was attention to detail, an aptitude for writing, a good education, and a good memory.

Market knowledge, intuition, negotiation, attention to detail as well as the big picture, intelligence, editing skills, written and spoken communication, 16 years of publishing experience, determination, consensus-building, vision, creativity, teamwork, prioritization, multitasking, optimism, enthusiasm, respect, research, networking, reputation, focus, dedication, ownership, flexibility, organization skills, computer skills, writing skills, patience, logic, design sense, time management, empathy, knowledge of publishing processes, initiative, confidence, tact, diplomacy, assertiveness, self-directedness, conceptual thinking, persuasive, customer-focused, deadline conscious, decisiveness, diligence, discipline, entrepreneurial thinking, judgment skills, independence, influencing, initiative, innovative, insight, perception, precision, productive, process-oriented, professionalism, profit-conscious, project management, resourcefulness, self-motivated, strategic thinking, strong work ethic, forecasting.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Check Out My New Office

At the end of last week we had packed up 25 years of awful office furnishings and hit the road to our new place. When I arrived Monday morning to see my office for the first time since it was carpeted and painted, it took my breath away. After 8 years in a government-issue rat-hole, this was like Tess's first day in her new big-ass job in Working Girl. Cue the Carly Simon music.

Okay, so it's really just an office. But it's big. And clean. And tastefully decorated. With lots of storage space. Sweet.
Nevermind that I can't get my e-mail or make an outgoing call. And that I have two books going to the printer this week amid the disarray. These are minor details. For now, let me savor the rejuvenating effects of change.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Big Changes at JIST

The publisher I work for, JIST Publishing, was acquired this spring. I hadn't mentioned it here before because things have been so up-in-the-air. But as we start to pack up our offices and move to a new place next week, it seemed like a good time to talk about it.

We've gone from being a 50-person office owned by one eccentric millionaire to a 25-person office owned by a 100-person textbook publisher, EMC/Paradigm. And higher up, EMC is owned by a private equity fund. There are, of course, good and bad things about that change, the best being that we don't have to watch someone squander the money we make for him on second-hand RVs, armageddon-staving generators, classic cars, and railroad storage crates. But I digress.

In book publishing, mergers and acquisitions are routine. Sometimes they're good, and you get to work on a different product line, get a better office building, and maybe get a better benefits package (or in my case, I'm inheriting better office furniture). But often people lose their jobs, and those left just have to take on their responsibilities for the same pay. Really, it's no different than what's happening in the rest of corporate America these days. The key is to make yourself indispensible to your company, and to always be able to demonstrate how you contribute to the "bottom line."

So as of July 23, the new JIST offices are at 7321 Shadeland Station, Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46256. We are jazzed about the new selection of restaurants, the more convenient location, and the fact that all our departments will be closer to one another, so that hopefully, we can communicate better.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Occupational Hazard: Computer Vision Syndrome

Modern book publishing requires editors to spend hours upon hours editing text on the computer screen. This is obviously more efficient than editing on hard copy; but it's also more difficult for the eyes. Experts estimate that nearly 126 million people suffer from a condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome. As it turns out, I am one of them.

Symptoms of CVS include the following:
  • Headaches
  • Loss of focus
  • Burning/tired eyes
  • Double/blurred vision
  • Neck and shoulder pains

My condition was just diagnosed last Friday. For the past six months or so, I have noticed that the big aisle signs in Wal-Mart are now blurry. I have trouble focusing my eyes while driving. And I have always had terrible headaches. My mother-in-law and mom both said, "Well, yeah, you turned 40, so your eyes have gone bad. That's how it works."

So as someone who has made my living with my eagle eyes, and spent my childhood being the champion four-leaf-clover and morel finder, I realized I couldn't afford to let it get worse. So I went for my first eye exam in 7 years.

After a battery of high-tech tests (one of which even eliminates the need to dilate your pupils), my eye doctor announced that she thought I have CVS. Believe it or not, I still have 20/20 vision in one eye and 20/15 in the other, but because I strain my eye muscles constantly looking at details on the computer, they have trouble focusing on "the big picture," so to speak.

So I'm getting glasses. My first glasses ever. But I only have to wear them when I'm editing on the computer. They have a Teflon coating to reduce glare and make me look all brainy like Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino. Well, maybe not so much like her.

To read more about CVS and how to minimize its effects, see http://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/. Take care of your eyes. As an editor, they are absolutely your most valuable asset.