Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Rider's Ruminations

Spring has sprung at last in Chicagoland!

The weather was glorious this weekend and perfect for  a 7-mile run (and walk) on Saturday and the inaugural road ride on Sunday of just under 30 miles.  Finally.

After a disappointing low-snow winter with no chance for cross-country skiing, it was great to exercise outside.

Of course, running and riding outside, I find myself ruminating on the same themes year after year.

Running on the Evanston lakefront I counted 20 responsible riders compared to 19 fools without helmets.  In addition to the 19 fools, I counted two dads as d#*$!n fools: one wore a helmet but carried his son on his handle bars; the other's daughter wore a helmet but he did not.  She will grow up believing  (incorrectly) that helmets are like training wheels and you outgrow the need.  You do not.  Bikers with brains wear helmets.

Riding north on Sheridan Road, the northern half of Winnetka is as decrepit and unwelcoming as ever, leading me to wonder if potholes are part of the village's strategic plan: the risk of flat tires and accidents will limit unwanted traffic in the area.

As we continue north and into Highland Park, we cruise past several lakefront mansions that (it seems) have been on the market for several seasons.  I can't help but wish that the City of Highland Park would buy the property and remove the homes, restoring the lakefront as a public asset. Evanston and Chicago got it right, with the majority of the lakefront, forever open, clear and free.

Downtown Highland Park is a treat - and is as welcoming to bikers as Winnetka is not.  It's always a pleasure to pull up to Perfect Blend, hop off the bike, refill the water bottle and chat with fellow cyclists, all of whom, not surprisingly, wear helmets.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Advice to the new college graduate (or anyone looking for a job)

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation!  Unfortunately, sending  a resume to an HR department is like dropping it into a big black hole.  BUT, if you research an organization, find out where the opportunities are and where you think your skills and experience might fit, then leveraging your networks can be really valuable.  I am certain that if you applied for a position in my department and then someone you knew contacted one of my colleagues, my colleague would shoot me an email saying, "Kristin, take a look at this person...I know her from..."  It doesn't guarantee you'll get the job, but it does mean your cover letter and resume go to the top of the pile and get careful consideration.  If you're just generally interested in an organization but don't know where to start, use your networks (and your parents' and friends' networks) to ask for informational interviews.  

I'm in the process of hiring for two positions right now and my experience as a hiring manager may help you in your job search.  I have first-round interviews with several candidates next week.  Two of them were personal referrals; one was referred directly by someone who used to work with me and the other used her network: someone she knows talked to someone they know at my organization. That person looked at her resume and cover letter and forwarded it to me, saying she looked like a good fit. Even though I had already finished reviewing applicants and starting scheduling interviews, I took the time to read it because of the referral - and decided to interview her.

For every resume I reviewed, I was looking for strong international experience and proficiency in at least one language other than English.  Since both positions require social media expertise, if I liked the resume I looked the candidate up on LinkedIn to see if the profile was up-to-date and there were a reasonable number of connections.  Next, I "googled" the candidate to see if there was a blog or if they used other platforms like Pinterest or Facebook. (Of course, the strongest candidates for these positions provided me with their blogs or twitter handles, because they are applying for a role using social media.)  Needless to say, the candidate with the inappropriate photos that came up at the top of the Google search results did not get an interview.  

In the past year I have hired three new employees in their mid-20s. They all wrote cover letters that didn't just restate what was in the resume, but told me why the experience in the resume was relevant to the job for which they were applying.  AND, they all wrote thank-you notes after both first and second round interviews. For one of them, that was the deciding factor between two equally qualified candidates. One candidate impressed me with a question about my background that she would only have known if she'd done her homework on me - and found the relevant info on my LinkedIn profile. She got the job.