Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Election 2010 Endorsements

I believe that voting is the most important privilege we can exercise as citizens. Of course, we have the right to not vote, but I hold the honor of voting in such high regard that it is almost inconceivable to me that I wouldn't.

Except now. I have never been less interested in the outcome of an election than now.

I often counsel that we should vote for the candidate or position we favor, not simply in opposition to those we don't. That's why John Kerry lost the presidential election in 2004. No one wanted George Bush to win a second term, but no one really wanted John Kerry to win, either. So, people either voted for Bush, or against Bush, or stayed home, and Bush won his second term.

This election is even worse. This is a mid-term referendum on Barack Obama. The problem is, there are no viable candidates on any level. All of them are weak, and none of them interest me in the least.

With this disclaimer, here are my endorsements for 2010:

US Senate -- John McCain (R) vs nobody

I actually voted for John McCain for president twice, in 2000 and 2004 as my write-in choice. I admired his maverick approach, that he voted his conscience and let the chips fall where they would.

But that is not the John McCain who ran for president in 2008, nor is that the John McCain running for re-election to the US Senate now. This John McCain is a political veteran fighting for his career by pandering to those who he thinks will support him. He's a compromiser, a flip-flopper, saying things now that he would have condemned 10 years ago.

He's a shoe-in, however, as there is really nobody running against him. I had to look up on the Internet (thank you, Al Gore!) to find names I've never heard of. His only real opponent was in the Republican primary, for which McCain sold his soul to win.

So, do I vote for McCain because I supported him before? I guess I do, hoping that once we get past this election, the man I admired in the past will put politics aside to be the leader he used to be.

US Representative -- Ben Quayle (R) vs nobody

The AZ Election Guide lists Qualye's qualifications as "Venture Capitalist, son of ex Vice-President Dan Quayle." Young Ben is famous for his line, "Barack Obama is the worst president ever." If so, it is only because we had the good fortune that George Bush the Elder did not die to elevate Dan. Young Ben may be the only politician in history with less qualification than his father.

Young Ben won the Republican primary with something like 23% of the vote, which means that approximately 4% of the residents in my district actually think he's qualified. That seems about right.

My district includes the wealthiest part of the state (not my neighborhood, mind you). Not that wealthy people automatically vote Republican, but the Republican party tends to be more favorable to wealth and wealth builders. As such, the Democrats typically will run only a token candidate, preferring to spend their resources where they can be more competitive. Which is too bad because I think this year, the car that Young Ben drives could run against him and have a shot at winning.

Unfortunately, the Libertarian candidate does not have enough money to even register a web domain. Dude, you can set up a free Facebook page!

I'm voting for Young Ben's car.

Governor -- Jan Brewer (R) vs Terry Goddard (D)

Brewer was elevated to governor when sitting Governor Janet Napolitano was picked by President Obama to head the Office of Homeland Security. Brewer inherited a disaster. The state was out of money and the economy was in free-fall. Brewer was in over her head and she knew it, which gave her the political courage to propose the unthinkable -- a one-cent sales tax. Her rationale was basic: even if the state eliminates every dime from the budget that was not mandated by the federal government or by voters, we still would not have enough money to balance the budget. With the state economy relying almost exclusively on construction and tourism, and Fender Guitar, we simply do not have the revenue base we need. We have to raise taxes. The Republican-controlled legislature stalled for two years before punting the issue to voters, who promptly voted for the increase. Still, Brewer, a Republican, faced fierce criticism.

And then came SB1070, the anti-immigration bill. Brewer knew that it was a bad bill, that it was unenforceable, that it is unconstitutional, and that it does nothing to address border security. She initially didn't want to sign it. But perhaps because she knew that it would eventually be found unconstitutional, she did sign it (on a Saturday, the last day before the bill would die). And, found that she had grabbed a tiger by the tail. Over night, she became a leading spokes-person for the conservative cause, even being flown to Washington for a private meeting with the President. Which is hilarious because I watched her speak once at a breakfast meeting for a Phoenix City Councilmember, where Brewer was upstaged in both eloquence and content.

Suddenly, the Brewer that I kind of liked disappeared to be replaced by a lying, scheming opportunist, claiming to have always supported the bill (she didn't), falsifying information (the infamous claim of mass beheadings in the Arizona deserts that no one has ever found), and completely misrepresenting the intent of the bill (to harass legal American citizens).

I cannot and will not support someone who so completely misrepresents the truth.

Fortunately, Democrat Terry Goddard, the current Attorney General, is a viable candidate. Goddard opposed SB1070, but swore to uphold it as the duly elected officer (Brewer "fired" him, another unconstitutional move); he focuses on the real issues of the economy while Brewer focuses on the imaginary horrors of illegal immigration.

Interestingly, 75% of Brewer's Candidate Statement focuses on Goddard, which any marketing expert will suggest is often the desperate strategy of the number two brand. Goddard never once mentions Brewer of her failed policies.

I support Terry Goddard.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This is the eulogy I wrote for my father, who passed away on April 9. He was 68.

Eulogy for Bill Dumcum

From his son, Kevin Dumcum

I think my dad would be surprised over some of the things that have been said about him over the past few days – mainly because while he loved to tell stories, and he loved to laugh, he never really liked to be the center of attention.

But Dad, you need to know how much you meant to all of us, and to me.

I didn’t share your passion for raising bees, or for World War II military history, or for Mighty Mite football. And Lord knows I was happy that you never found the right hill to buy to build the underground home for which you drew up the architectural plans.

But, I love that you were passionate about these things and more.

I love how you always supported me in my sometime silly pursuits. When I got my new job, you would send me article clippings about the job search process. Even though you never really understood my passion for comic books, you would find web links and programs to help me sort and organize my collection. And when I had my serious running injury, you researched and found a book on running injury-free.

I love how loyal you were. You had your favorite brands and you stuck with them, because they worked. You were an early adopter of new technology, but slow to upgrade; why change what isn’t broken, you would say. You ate at Justin’s restaurant for as long as Justin stayed with the chain; once Justin moved on to another restaurant chain, you were not shy about pointing out how quickly the quality deteriorated. And you had your favorite TV shows, even if one of them was Jay Leno.

I love how compassionate you were. I never realized when I was growing up, but we were poor; yet, we had everything we needed. I assumed all dads made bunk beds and bookshelves and headboards, that all dads maintained huge vegetable gardens and compost piles, that all dads made rabbit-skin hats and Halloween costumes. It took me a while to realize, that was not true. You taught us to be satisfied with what we had, all the while striving to make sure we had what we needed. One specific example, of which I am so proud, is that you went back to get your college degree by taking night classes.

I love how creative you were. You could do things with a computer that I can barely imagine. You have programs I’ve never heard of and cannot tell what they do. Your files are color-coded. Your workstation is stacked with equipment and wires and clippings, and Post-it Notes dot every available surface, and it is obvious that everything has an original purpose. Over the past few days, we’ve been trying to figure out how you did some things. It is going to take a while longer before we know, if ever.

Dad, I love how you loved your family. You would move mountains for any one of us. You took care of sick cats when we are out of town. You waited for moving vans while we had to go on ahead to our destinations. You showed up with wet vacs or tools when something went wrong or broke down. And you always answered the phone, listened to our gripes without judgment, and gave us the advice we needed.

Above all, you loved Mom with a love that is beyond words.

Dad, you went too soon. There is still so much I wanted to hear and learn from you. But I trust you, that I have what I need and can take it from here on out:

Be passionate about something, even if it takes a few attempts to find what that something is.

Be loyal. If you find something that works, stick with it.

Be compassionate. Always try to do your best, but do your best to benefit someone else.

Be creative.

Love unconditionally.

I didn’t say it enough, but I love you, Dad, and I am so proud to be your son.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Job Search Tip of the Week -- Volunteer

As a job seeker, your first obligation is to your job search. However, it is likely that at some point during the week, you will have attended all the networking events, have sent out all your Thank You notes, have called to set up coffee or lunch meetings, have updated your LinkedIn status, and you still may have time left over.

Consider volunteering. Find an organization or a cause you believe in, and donate your time and skills. There are a number of benefits volunteering provides to job seekers, including:
· If you have been searching for several months, volunteering helps fill in gaps in your work history
· Volunteering can help you retain your work skills
· Volunteering can help you learn new skills. Experience is experience, even if you are not paid for it
· Volunteering opens up another avenue for networking. Volunteer organizations know they can’t pay you, so are very open to meeting with you, discussing options, and even providing letters of commendation (assuming your work deserves it!). And by simply getting out of the house, you are meeting new people who can help your search
· No matter how bad we think our situation is, there is someone else who needs support even more. The need for services is growing at exactly the time that budgets are being cut. Volunteering is the right thing to do

For volunteer opportunities, check out:
Hands on Greater Phoenix: http://handsonphoenix.org/
Volunteer Match: http://www.volunteermatch.org/
Goodwill of Central Arizona: https://volunteer.goodwillaz.org/

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lessons Learned during the career transition

I was on a vacation day during the last week of February when I received a panicked call from a work colleague, saying that management was swinging the hatchet. Jobs were being cut.

The week earlier, my boss had asked me to transfer all of my job responsibilities to another colleague. That seemed suspicious, but being the good corporate citizen, I, of course, agreed to do it. I read the tea leaves, though, so when my colleague called me, I knew that my name was on the cut list.

I first calmed my colleague down and encouraged her to watch out for herself. I then called my office to see how my office mates were faring, which confused them, as they knew my fate but didn’t know if I knew my fate. Finally, I called my boss, who was planning to wait until I returned to work before letting me know, but I forced the issue. I was cut. Downsized. RIFed. Laid off. However it was labeled, after eleven years with my company, I was about to receive my last paycheck.

Forward to the second week of October, over seven months later: I just received an offer for a position as an Employment Specialist for Goodwill of Central Arizona. I will be working in a Workforce Investment Act funded program to assist clients who may experience barriers to employment to find jobs.

This is a brand new field for me, but one for which I have developed a passion during my own career transition. I am qualified for it, by using my marketing and market research background in new ways. In fact, my background allows me a unique perspective that others in my new field may lack.

I feel blessed. In my career transition period, I have met many wonderful, talented, and encouraging people I would not have otherwise met. I have gained new skills. I have a much greater knowledge of, and appreciation for, the Phoenix metro area. And perhaps most importantly for my new career, I have learned several lessons to increase the likelihood of success in a job search:

1) Leave the house. If your job search strategy consists only of hitting the “submit resume” on various job boards, you are in for a long and frustrating search.

2) Define what you want to do, even if it is not directly related to what you used to do. I truly believe that those of us facing a career transition have been given a gift. Are we doing what we want to do? Are we doing what we were meant to do? If not, now is the perfect opportunity to correct course. And even if we are in our chosen field, then the opportunity to practice with a new company will only enhance our careers. I fully embrace that it is no fun being unemployed, but I also know that pain may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

3) Find some reason, every day, to take a shower – either before or after an activity (or, both). Get out of the house. Join groups, whether they are “job search” related or not. Go to the museum on free-admission days. Play with your kids. Explore the public library system. Hike the metro-area mountains. Mow your neighbor’s lawn when you do yours. Anything. Just don’t let your couch form an impression of the seat of your pants.

4) Volunteer. Find a cause you believe in. Help those who are less fortunate than you. Not only is it good for the soul, but you also can practice your skills, or learn new ones. On a practical level, if you do the good job you are capable of, then the organization staff will go out of their way to recommend you to their network.

5) Allow yourself permission, every once in a while, to take an afternoon off. Read a book for your book club. Watch a DVD (the public library has a surprisingly robust, and free, selection), or go to a movie at matinee discount prices. Go bowling, or play a round of mini-golf. It’s okay. Even God rested on the seventh day.

6) Never give up. On your darkest day, when you’ve received the rejection notice or did not get the call back you hoped for, end the day on a positive. Write the thank you note finding something positive to say about the company. Force yourself to go to the networking meeting you want to blow off. Muster up the courage to make the call to the friend of a friend to set up a coffee date.

I am highly analytical by nature. Many times during my transition I have said that while I take no great joy in being unemployed, I do find the career management and job search process to be fascinating. Now, for at least the next little while, I get to turn that fascination into a vocation.

Dear readers, I wish you the success you desire. Please let me know how I can help.

Monday, September 28, 2009

To my newly (or soon to be) emancipated friends

When I was let go from my last employer, my former company had just days earlier announced that it was merging with a much larger competitor. I was assured that the staff reduction decision had nothing to do with the merger, and I do believe that. But if this is true, then it is logical to assume that more staff cuts are to come; mergers always lead to cost-efficiency considerations, and in a business service industry, cost-efficiency is closely tied to head-count.

Plus, my company's CEO assured nervous investors that drastic cost cutting would commence before year end.

So, a number of my former colleagues (and dear friends) are nervous about their future. I am nervous for them as well. So to you, my friends, a few brief tips that I hope will help (I've become a bit of an expert, and am actively looking to re-career as an employment specialist):

1) Job Loss has been proven to be one of the more stressful events in a person's life, ranking with Death and Divorce. So, the emotions you feel are valid, and normal.

1a) The coping mechanisms that you may have used in other stressful events of your life can be used to help you deal with the emotions of a job loss as well.

2) You will be competing with thousands of other job seekers. It is very competitive, and recruiters / HR managers are receiving hundreds of resumes for every posting, most of which are no where near qualified.

2a) Most job seekers are going about their job search the wrong way. You can do better.

3) You will check out the job boards (CareerBuilder, HotJobs, Monster, etc.). We all do. But please understand: 70% of all job openings that are filled, are never posted. So, if you only use job boards, not only are you missing out on 70% of all positions, you are also competing with thousands of job seekers for the same 30%.

3a) I've talked with recruiters who are saying that they are no longer posting positions, because it's so overwhelming. They are filling positions through referrals.

3b) Note that recruiters do have positions to fill!

4) You have to get out and meet people, shake their hands, ask them questions, and share what you are looking for (which requires you to know what you are looking for). It's scary, and it's hard, but it's necessary, and it gets easier as you do it more. And, it works.

Does your church offer a Job Seekers Network? Join, now! Call anyone you used to work with who are now or have been seeking, meet them for coffee, and ask them what they are doing. Are there women's networking groups available? Check out the AARP, which nowadays takes anyone over 40, and talk with them about resources and opportunities for mature workers -- you don't necessarily have to join. And get active with your local American Marketing Association and/or Market Research Association chapters (or similar industry affiliated group).

5) Definitely check out the state Economic Security offices (or whatever they would be called in MN). Arizona offers wonderful free workshops on resume writing and interviewing skills. I have to believe that MN does as well, and maybe more.

5a) Learn to use online resources to your advantage. Find FREE classes for LinkedIn (there are a lot of fee-based classes, but it's not rocket science and you should be able to find appropriate training for free). Go to the main library and talk to a librarian, who will be happy to discuss what services the library offers that you can't get on the Web.

5b) But DO NOT restrict your job search activities sitting at your table on your laptop at home! You have to get out and meet people.

6) You have to take care of yourself and your families first, so if you are given the "it's not you, it's me" speech, take the next several days to get yourself in order, do some planning, get your communication pieces drafted, etc. After a while, though, your job search routine will begin to settle. I would encourage you, then, to think about what you love to do, and go volunteer to do so. Do you like kids? Working with the homeless? Animal adoption? Cancer or heart or lupus or some other disease? Maybe you volunteer at your kids' school.

Not only is volunteering good for the soul, but it gets you out of your house, and active. You can learn new skills, which become resume points. And, do a good job, use it to network within the organization, and they will fight on your behalf, calling potential employers, sending recommendations, etc. At least, that has been my experience, and all of my current and best opportunities are directly related to volunteering.

Being let go is tough. I remember I felt like I was punched in the gut, even though I sniffed something in the air about a week before I got the call. But pray, stay close to God and your loved ones, and you will get through this.

And I can honestly say that even though I have not had a paycheck since March, this has been one of the best, and one of the most fun years of my life. I'm doing things I never considered doing, I've broken through some of my comfort zone, I've met dozens of wonderful people, and they ALL want to help.

Maybe you won't need this advice. But consider this: the days of life-long employment with a single employer is over. The average tenure with an employer is 3-4 years, which means that if not this year, then most likely within the next three years, you will be looking for your next position (voluntarily or not). Set yourself up for success now, and keep at it.

But above all, while (or when) you are employed, do the best job you can and make as much profit for your employer as you can. Chances are, your boss will be looking for his/her next job right along side you very soon. It's a small world. Never burn bridges.

Good luck!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Archie Marries Veronica! (or, does he?!)

A Dallas comic book store owner and collector is so upset that Archie Andrews is marrying spoiled little rich girl Veronica Lodge instead of girl-next-door Betty Cooper that to protest, he’s selling his copy of Archie Comics #1 from 1942.

Literally and figuratively, I’m not buying his story. A few things:

-- Anyone who’s read comic books for more than a year should realize that “game changing” events are rarely permanent. No one expected when Captain America died in in the now legendary story from 2007 that he would remain dead for long (although, these are excellent stories and well worth reading). And, the Archie website pretty much tells us from the beginning that this is an imaginary story! Archie is stressed by his high school graduation so he goes for a walk through the woods, and when he emerges, it’s four years later and he’s graduating college. Of course things are going back to normal as soon as the story is over.

-- Anyone who claims to be an Archie Comics fan of any length of time knows that sweet Betty Cooper hasn’t always been a sweetheart. Nearly every Digest issue includes stories from as late as the 1960s where Betty is just as scheming and conniving as Veronica, in her own way. Or, checking out the fascinating Archie Americana series of stories segmented by decade, we see that Archie, Veronica, Jughead Jones, Reggie Mantle, Big Moose Mason, Mr. Weatherby, Miss Grundy, and every other character stay remarkably consistent over nearly 70 years, the one exception being sweet Betty. The “Everybody’s Sweetheart” version of Betty didn’t emerge until the 1970s. Admittedly Betty during the current half of her career is the Betty we all know and love, but selling a 1942 copy is a pretty hollow protest.

-- Everyone recalls the infamous “Love Showdown” storyline from 1994, where Betty and Veronica threw down the gauntlet: Archie must decide once and for all. So, he chose SPOILER

Cheryl Blossom. At least until the next issue when things were pretty much back to normal.

-- Archie Comics have some of the best writers in the business, but for a story this significant, they brought in uber-movie producer Michael Uslan (the classic “Dark Knight,” the underwhelming “The Spirit,” and the downright awful “Catwoman”), not by one of the regular Archie writers. Now, Uslan teaches a course on comic books at Indiana University so he’s not necessarily a hack, but I have to believe that if Archie Comics would make a lasting change, it would be done by one of their regular storytellers.

-- Selling comic book back issues does nothing for or against the publisher. They’ve already been paid all they’re going to be paid. If you want to make a meaningful protest, you would refuse to buy any new issues, or for a store, refuse to stock any current issues. The comic book industry is like every other industry, and sales dictate direction.

Also, the comic book industry generally runs three to four months ahead of time, so it’s likely that every issue of the Archie Marries Veronica storyline is already written and produced, so a protest at this time doesn’t stop anything. The issues are all coming out.

Of course, the real reason this owner is selling is to get some quick cash. And the current storyline very likely will generate some interest, driving the price up; once all the issues have been released, the price for Archie #1 likely will drop to current levels, so strike while the iron is hot.

This story is generating a lot of buzz for the always entertaining Archie Comics. I confess that I have been a fan for years, thrilling to the antics of the crazy gang from Riverdale. So, I'm mildly interested in how this storyline will play out, but as a 20-year veteran of the comic-book-reading game, I know that by the end of the storyline, everything will be back to normal.

Aside: Cheryl Blossom, who has a genuine interest in Archie, is an even richer and more spoiled version of Veronica, who often uses Archie simply to make Betty jealous. Cheryl does struggle with the vast gulf of social status between her and Archie, but given my vote, I would like to see Archie end up with Cheryl.

Like everyone else, I do love Betty, but Archie has broken her heart too many times and does not deserve her. She needs to move away to college and meet a new soul mate.

I predict that the constant bickering between Veronica and Jughead is really a mask for some deep-seated chemistry between the two. Don’t be surprised when they show up as a couple at their 10-year high school reunion.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My pretty cool new volunteer venture

I hinted a couple weeks ago at something pretty exciting. It made the front page of the July 9 Arizona Republic newspaper:

What the story didn't fully explain:

The Great State of Arizona accepted a federal grant under the Workforce Investment Act to open additional Access Points for the state's Workforce Connection program. I am going to be an Access Point Trainer.

Starting next Sunday afternoon, one of the big churches in my 'hood is opening an Access Point office, so anyone from the community, not just church members (and not even restricted to those of the Christian faith) can stop in for resume reviews, interviewing tips, and help in accessing job boards and filling out applications. Or, if they just need someone to vent to or to pray with, I can do that as well.

The staff at the Workforce Connection sites are all extremely competent and compassionate, but are overwhelmed; Arizona is still facing a $2Billion budget shortfall (they missed their June 30 deadline) so is making cuts across the board, many times resulting in cuts to programs and services that are most in demand. Access Points bring the services into more neighborhoods, and simply helps to spread the services across more people.

The Trainer position is volunteer for now; the grant money goes towards the material. Because it is under a federal grant, it is portable, so if I end up moving to Seattle or Minneapolis or wherever my next job will take me, I could conceivably volunteer in a new state. And, it is another bullet point on my resume.

I have said several times that, while I have no pleasure in being unemployed, I do find the process of looking for work to be fascinating. And, I've long held to the saying, "Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." I've wanted to find opportunities to teach / coach / train / mentor, and this seems like a pretty obvious convergence of desires, interests, and current situation. I'm pretty excited about it.

And I get my picture in the paper to boot!