Stranger in a Strange Land

It’s been three weeks since I started my new job, and my head is swirling with all the change and excitement.

Before taking this role with Nuance Communications, I had been at Sun Microsystems for nine-plus years. During that time, I got married, got a dog, bought a condo, had a child…amazing how much one can accomplish in that span of time.

For the last seven years, I worked from home nearly full time. That’s not to say I never went into an office – I traveled to Sun’s headquarters in Silicon Valley pretty frequently for meetings and went into the local Burlington office for meetings as well.

But primarily, I worked from home, and I loved every minute of it. The flexibility was extraordinary. Now, granted, I pretty much worked around the clock. There’s really no such thing as a “sick day” when you work from home. (How sick must one be, to be unable to type or join a conference call?) But if I needed to do laundry during the day here and there, it was a non-issue. If I needed to get my son to the doctor, I simply scheduled it in between meetings. It made life easy, easy.

So now, here I am, in a brand-new company (new to me, anyway), working in an office every day. I get dressed up every morning! I put on makeup! I see real, live people and make small talk! What sounded just dreadful to me in my previous life is actually pretty fun, and not the grind I imagined it would be. Admittedly, I see my son a little less, and when we’re together, I treasure every second. But I see and interact with lots of other people, and I can’t help but feeling as though this latter part is a good thing. It’s all rather exciting.

I’ve been thinking about the notion of “work-life balance”, and I can’t help but feel like it’s a bit of a misnomer. To me, it implies that the two are mutually exclusive, and that life only happens outside of work. Wow, if that were true, that’s a damn depressing thought. I have to think that each of us are living life every second, even when we’re sitting there under unflattering florescent lights in a corporate office park. As it turns out, I do some of my best, most creative thinking under those awful lights. I do work that makes my heart beat a little faster. And amidst the buzz of other company workers tending their own patches, I feel part of something bigger once again.

And if that ain’t livin’, well, I don’t know what is.


May 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm 2 comments

4 Tips from My Spring 2010 Job Search

There’s a lot of talk about jobs these days. U.S. unemployment near 10% means that nearly everyone has been personally impacted or knows someone well who’s lost a job. With this in mind, I have a few tips to share from my own very recent job search.

I should start by saying I got lucky. This is not to say I didn’t work hard to land my new gig as Global Employee Communications Manager with Burlington, MA-based Nuance Communications. But I got lucky in that there just happened to be a handful of attractive job opportunities in my very specific line of work at the exact same time I began my job search. Serendipity at work.

So, I began my job search in earnest in mid-February, and had 26 interviews over the following month. Yes, 26. With all this recent experience under my belt, I feel compelled to share a few key learnings and observations for those of you looking to make a change.

Here are my top tips for you, fellow job-seeker:

  • Revamp the ol’ resume. There’s plenty of info online on exactly HOW to do this, but one great tip I received from a recruiter friend was to drop the “Summary of Qualifications” paragraph at the top. I replaced mine with a “Notable Accomplishments” section just under the resume header, and there I pulled out the three achievements I really wanted potential employers to see. Make every word of your resume meaningful and important.
  • LinkedIn is where it’s at. It’s been around for several years, but I know many still struggle to understand just how useful this tool is in the job search process.  Hear me when I say it’s simply indispensable.

    After I updated my resume in Word, I simply cut and pasted it, section by section, into LinkedIn. Then, I did something that was not easy, but OH, was it fruitful:  I swallowed my pride and humbly sent a request to a few dozen of my closest colleagues, asking for recommendations of my work. It was a low-pressure plea, but I ended up with a bunch of very thoughtful recommendations of my recent work.

    As soon as I  reviewed these recommendations and posted them to my LinkedIn profile, I began receiving solid job leads. Former colleagues, as well as hiring managers and recruiters, began reaching out to me to alert me to opportunities in my line of work. In many cases, these opportunities were not yet posted on any of the popular job board sites I’d been using, so I know I would not have discovered them without this online networking on LinkedIn.

  • proved to be the most useful job board for my search. First, though, I had to figure out all the myriad terms that are used to refer to my line of work: not just “employee communications” as we’d used at Sun Microsystems, but also “executive communications”, “corporate communications” and “internal communications”. I also searched under subject areas (“social media”) and related jobs (“community manager”) that interested me. allows you to set search parameters beyond just the title, to include location, and even salary.

    I created two or three daily job alerts and received notice of new jobs in my areas of interest every day. When I came across jobs that looked interesting, but not quite right for me for one reason or another, I shared them. I did this by posting them to alumni groups for former colleagues, posting them to my Facebook profile – I’m sure there are many other places one could post such things. Spreading this kind of information in this economy is just the right thing to do, and it’s good karma.

  • The behavioral interview was not the norm in my experience. A few years back, I feel like that style of interviewing was all you heard about when looking for a job. You know the type, with questions that start like “Tell me about a time where…” or “Please give me a specific example of when you had to…” Well, out of my 26 interviews, I would say that less than five were behavior-based interviews (but it may be worth noting that all five of those were final-round interviews).

    Thankfully, I’d prepared myself to answer behavioral-type questions, so in many cases, I felt as though I was over-prepared to answer questions that came my way. As it turned out, most of my interviewers were much less formal and conducted the interview more as a conversation, as though they actually wanted to get a sense for who I was as a person, both inside and outside of work. This was great, because in many cases it allowed me to steer the conversation in a way that highlighted my strengths and major accomplishments, rather than sitting there like a deer in the headlights.

So, it seems I’ve had a happy ending, and I’m chomping at the bit to start this next professional adventure with Nuance. My hope is that by sharing this information, others can get a head start their own job searches…one step closer to a satisfying next step.

Now, go dazzle ‘em!

April 9, 2010 at 12:33 am Leave a comment

I’m A Company Girl

When I first learned my company was being acquired, a circumstance which could possibly jeopardize my job, my mind went into overdrive. At that point, the close of the acquisition was still many months away, giving me lots of time to think and plan. Perhaps too much time. I felt as though the possibilities were endless, and “this is my chance to make a BIG change.”

I thought about starting up all kinds of web-based businesses – retail, services, you name it, I considered it. Then, I decided that consulting might be just the thing for me. I had this fantasy in my head where I’d selectively choose only the most interesting and challenging work for local start-ups and entrepreneurs, working from my home and having business meetings in the cafe on my block. But, after some initial planning (outside of company working hours) and a bunch of research into the consulting business, I came to the realization that consulting is not an easy gig. It’s a constant hustle. It’s chasing clients down for money. It’s constantly proving your worth.

So, over the past several months, I came to a few realizations about myself, and about my profession:

  • I love what I do for a living, and what I do is help executives to communicate to their employees and other audiences.
  • Only fairly big companies employ people in my particular line of work, and I like working for big companies. There’s lots of opportunity to make an impact, and lots of room to grow.
  • I love business, and I love technology. Allow me to communicate about business using the newest technologies, and I’m in my happy place.

I’m a company girl. And proud of it, dammit.

(shout out to Mary Tyler Moore, an early company girl)

March 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm Leave a comment

A Communicator's Journal

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