Wednesday, August 29, 2012

internet troubles

I've been having internet problems over the past couple of weeks. For some reason, if I stay within the same general website, I won't have any trouble navigating. But once I start jumping from website to website (say, poking around the geoblogosphere for something to pontificate on), then after 10 or 15 links, all "outside" websites cease to work. And then so does the one I'm working on. I'm pretty sure it's an internet issue, not a problem on our end, since my sweetie and I have three computers between us and we bought a new router last week in a vain effort to fix the problem.

I either need to find a good coffeeshop/web cafe or find a neighbor with a reliable signal to pirate.

So, until I find either (or find the time to spend an hour on hold with the local ISP rep), blogging may be sporadic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

on paper

I've done pretty well for myself in environmental consulting - I ended up advancing quickly, to the annoyance of coworkers who were older but not as, um, dedicated as I was. And then I went off to a high-powered STEM graduate school and I got a professional certification essentially on my own, and then I started looking around for somewhere to take my talents.

I got a funny comment more than once during the job-hunting process: "well, you look good on paper..." (dubiously).

Yes. I look good on paper. I graduated with honors from college ages ago. I have an advanced degree from an impressive grad school. I did a really cool thesis with minimal help. I took more courses than I strictly needed to graduate because I thought they were interesting (and it didn't cost me any more to do it). I've worked with lots of managers and technical folks, and most of them (not everybody, but those exceptions are a story for another day) would be happy to serve as references for me. I moved into positions of responsibility at a relatively young age because I had proved that I could be trusted to do the right thing and to ask if I wasn't sure what the right thing was.

When you're looking to hire someone, you've got to go with the evidence at hand. I know I look young, but I truly didn't inflate my experience. That's what references (and transcripts, and professional certifications that you can confirm online) are for. Hell, I'm perfectly comfortable answering technical questions fired at me in an effort to unsettle me/see if I actually know something about the stuff that I claim to.

If I look good on paper, but not in person (Did I have some weird tic/nervous habit that I don't know about? Did I not project the correct amount of gravitas?), there's not much I can do about that. For interviews, I wore a conservative suit, I checked everything in the mirror and had my sweetie do a thorough once-over to make sure I didn't have something stuck to the back of my pants or something, and I made sure I had enough pens, paper, and backup documentation to get through anything that may be thrown at me. If I didn't work out in person, that's the interviewer's problem.

Doesn't mean I'm not going to agonize over the "looks good on paper" comment later, though.

Monday, August 27, 2012

short and sweet

I was reading through old "ask a manager" posts and came across this one regarding short cover letters. If you read down through the posts, AAM and the comment corps have a rousing discussion of business vs. academic writing and the need to write clearly and concisely.

Nobody wants to read a three-page cover letter. And nobody wants to read technical reports that put you to sleep two pages in.

I am a relentless cutter of superfluous words. I hate the unnecessary passive voice, sentences that you get lost in and have to start over to figure out what the suject is, and redundant phrases. I love thwacking through the clutter to edit a mess into something that is readable.

Not everyone shares my mania for clear, concise technical writing. But it doesn't hurt to keep in mind that in science, what matters are the ideas. This isn't high school, where you're trying to pad your 11th-hour essay to fit the word count. Nobody cares how big your words are - and if they're too big, perhaps it's time to abbreviate. Remember, you're writing to communicate, not punish the reader!

Monday, August 20, 2012


 I got totally distracted by the Olympics recently because I finally got to watch some sports on TV that I used to participate in myself and that I only get to see every four years. And then I got out of the habit of writing posts. I got as far as copying down a link about explosive coworkers a couple of weeks ago from Ask a Manager.

But now I'm back! So. Explosive coworkers, a theme I have extensive experience with, especially if you extend "coworkers" to include drillers and other contractors.

AAM suggests that when dealing with someone explosive, you tell the person (calmly) that the exploder is being unreasonable and then come back later when they've calmed down.

I have never found that telling someone in a full-on rage that they're being unreasonable to be helpful. In fact, it's pretty obnoxious. Most explodey people know they're being unprofessional. But their professionalism isn't exactly high on the list they're focusing on at the moment.

If someone is clearly getting steamed up, I suggest a break/taking some time to vent. If possible, I'll busy myself with paperwork so that they can mutter about how everything sucks and storm around for a bit. But once someone is at the screaming/throwing things stage, there's nothing to do but to wait it out and then address the lack of professionalism afterward.

I have always been the person who smooths down ruffled feathers and soothes people who are freaking out. I do get pissed off by people who get all worked up and essentially force me to be the peacemaker, to the point of raging (internally) myself. On a very rare occasion, my "pollyanna" disposition has irritated someone even more, finally causing an epic blowout. This has actually worked out the problem (sometimes screaming back causes the aggressor to back off) but it's not exactly productive or a permanent solution.

Of course, if someone is actually threatening/directing animus directly at me, and not having a general freakout, I'm not quite as dispassionate. If someone screams at me, I'll tear up and we can throw professionalism out the window. Sigh.