Two Conversations about Ferguson, Missouri

Since I wrote this post last week, I’ve had two conversations about Ferguson, Missouri and the death of Michael Brown that keep repeating over and over in my head. When that happens, it’s a sign to me that I should write about them.

Conversation #1 - My son, full of pride that he has mastered our cable’s On Demand system, turned on our television the other day, eager to click over to the kids shows. Instead, he and his little sister caught a news report about Michael Brown’s death, specifically how many times and where he was shot. R changed the channel quickly, but it was enough for them both to know that someone died. Thankfully, my kids don’t shy away from asking questions.

“Mommy, there was a man who was shot. He was shot in the head,” said R. He was pointing at the television, a concerned look on his face.

“Why was he shot, Mommy?” G inquired. She sat on our couch, holding a pink stuffed bear.

I sat down. This was a sitting down conversation.

“Yes, there was a man who was shot,” I confirmed.

“Is he ok?” asked G.

“No, honey. He died.”

“Was he a bad man?” asked G.

“No, he was not a bad man.”

“Good,” said G. “I’m glad he wasn’t a bad man.”

“But why was he shot?” R asked. “The television said a police officer shot him.”

“We don’t know why exactly the police officer shot him. People are very upset that he died. They are concerned that the police officer shot him because his skin was a different color. The police officer was white. The man was black.”

I could practically see the wheels spinning round and round inside their heads as they tried to understand what I was saying.

“Maybe the police officer forgot the rule!” G called out, sticking her hand up in the air, as if she had the answer.

“What rule?” I asked.

“The rule that says you’re not supposed to shoot someone just because their skin is a different color. Maybe he forgot it,” she explained.

“It’s wrong to do that,” R agreed. “You shouldn’t hurt people.”

You shouldn’t hurt people. My kids got it. What happens to the rest of us that we forget this guiding principle?

Conversation #2 - One of my family members works in law enforcement, a tough job every day and one that is even harder in the wake of the Ferguson. He reached out after he read my post, wanting to respond to my description of Michael Brown’s death as a murder.

He said that murder and homicide – which is what the medical examiner has ruled Michael Brown’s death – are not the same thing. His points were well reasoned, so I did a bit of research.  The following explanation from Lawyers.com gets at it directly:

“The terms murder and homicide are frequently interchanged; however, there is a difference between the two.  Homicide is the killing of one person by another.  Murder is a form of criminal homicide, where the perpetrator intended to kill the other person, sometimes with premeditation (a plan to kill).  Manslaughter is another type of criminal homicide.”

Since the facts in Michael Brown’s death are so unclear, my use of the word murder may be incorrect. Shooting or killing may have been more accurate. The emotional response to his death, however, is akin to what I imagine is felt in the case of a murder. The pain and loss are the same no matter how you define the circumstances of his death.

Speaking with my family member reminded me how quick people are to judge a situation. What does it feel like to be in law enforcement at this time in the United States? Does Michael Brown’s death make a police officer uncertain how to react in a crisis? Will an officer be less inclined engage if s/he is worried about being arrested or doing the wrong thing? For every officer who choses to brutalize a suspect, there are thousands of others who would never do so. How do we make sure those people continue to have the support they need to keep us safe?

I’m left with more questions than ever before, and from what I read online and from other conversations I’ve had, other people feel the same way. More questions, more frustration, more fear that we, as a country, are further apart than ever before. How do we solve this divide? How do we respond to the legacy of racism? How do spread respect, not hate?

My kids’ word – You shouldn’t hurt people – is one place.

Reading other writings about Ferguson is another way. Here are three to check out:

My prayers and thoughts are with the people of Ferguson and the family of Michael Brown.

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails,
and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy
to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
-Frederick Douglass

#Ferguson

I’ve had several posts in draft form for the past week, but I’ve been unable to finish them. I can’t concentrate on writing or thinking about anything but the state of world. So much hurt. So much disrespect and cruelty. It’s been a struggle for me—a normally optimistic person—to stay positive. I’ve had to work harder at finding moments of joy this week. I believe in those moments of inspiration and magic but the noise of sadness and anger is overwhelming.

One way I am pushing through that noise is by sharing stories. In a previous post, What I Learned About Race at #BlogHer14, I wrote that “when you come upon stories that are not your own but are impactful, share them.”

So, I’m sharing the story of the murder of Michael Brown and the subsequent pain and outrage of the residents of his community, Ferguson, Missouri, an outrage that has spread across our country. I hope you already know about it, and my post is one of many you’ve been reading on the subject. I hope you’re concerned about what’s happening in Ferguson and what it says about race in America. I hope you think, like I do, that things must change.

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Image Credit

If you’re not up to speed on Ferguson, and I know people who aren’t, I hope you’ll take some time today, to read about it:

1 || Black Lives Matter. Eric Garner was Last Month and Now Mike Brown

2 || Racial Bias, Policy Brutality, and the Dangerous Act of Being Black

3 || Gathering Under Street Lamps

4 || In which I have a few things to tell you about #Ferguson

5 || Why My Family Talked During the National Moment of Silence

6 || My Privilege is Showing. I Think It’s Probably Better That Way

7 || Ten Things White People Can Do about Ferguson Besides Tweet

Also, you can:

Know this photo (which I cannot get out of my mind), and the others like it, and understand what they say about police treatment of people of color in the US.

Follow #NMOS14 and #Ferguson on Twitter for news, as many concerns have been raised about mainstream’s media coverage.

“To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually
do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.”
– bell hooks, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope

O Captain! My Captain!

When I was in eighth grade, a boy in my class, a boy named Brett, took his own life.

I had known Brett since kindergarten, but by junior high, we weren’t close, the pressure of different social spheres weighing heavily. We passed each other in the hall at school, not even saying hello anymore. I remember his brown hair and shy smile.

I always wondered why he killed himself. Afterward, when my mother drove down the main street in our town, we would pass by his family’s house. I would sit in the backseat, staring intently at the house for the seconds it took us to go past, as if willing an explanation to come to me. It never did.

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You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it. -Robin Williams

I was reminded of Brett today when I heard the shocking news that Robin Williams had died of an apparent suicide. I am lucky to have been a beneficiary of Robin Williams’ talent. So many of us are. I grew up on “Mork and Mindy,” I cried during “Dead Poet’s Society” (and did again when I watched a clip of it tonight), I laughed during “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and I have watched “Good Will Hunting” so many times, I may have the dialogue memorized. Most of all, I marveled at Robin Williams’ gift for humor and for connecting people through comedy.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, nearly 40,000 Americans died from suicide. That number has been increasing over the past ten years to the point that now suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for Americans.

SAVE lists depression as a strong risk factor for suicide. As I have become more aware about suicide and as I have known people with depression, I understand that, as SAVE explains, “most people who attempt or commit suicide don’t really want to die – they just want their pain and suffering to end.” What heartbreak there is in that statement: to wish the end of suffering more than to live.

Suicide prevention organizations urge education in order to make more people aware of the signs of suicide.  They also encourage people to get involved and to get help. Reach out, connect, support. Be there. I hope we can all do that. I know I will try. For Brett. For you. For me.

*******

In honor of my beloved “Dead Poet’s Society” and in Robin Williams’ memory, I leave you with a poem featured in that film:

O Captain! My Captain!
By Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
The arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Photo credit: Chris Robertshaw via photopin cc

BlogHer14 Path to Published Author

Inspired by Danielle of Another Version of Mother, I’m looking back again on my #BlogHer14 experience; this time, highlighting my tweets from Pathfinder Day, the preconference session. I attended Path to Published Author, which was led by two successful (i.e., published) authors, Hank Shaw and Margaret Dilloway.

Hank Shaw and Margaret Dilloway

Hank Shaw and Margaret Dilloway

Image courtesy of Danielle Tsi Photography

I signed up for the session because I was (and still am) interested in learning more about the publishing world and the book writing/dealing process. I was really looking forward to Pathfinder Day. And, it was…ok. Not exactly what I expected, though I did leave with a better idea of how hard it is to get published.

The day kicked off with a keynote address by Teneshia J. Warner, whose never-take-no-for-an-answer story about finding her way through the business world was very inspiring:

In our session, Hank and Margaret emphasized writing needs passion and deep, deep committment:

They also, despite their success, were honest about the realities of the publishing world, explaining there is “no clear path to success” and: 

Even though rejections are frequent, Margaret was encouraging, noting that what’s “most important is to know your voice and cultivate it.” She also said:

Margaret emphasized the first draft: “never say no to an idea in a first draft,” as those ideas can turn into something wonderful. You can always edit later. Editing was, in fact, a topic they emphasized, explaining the different kinds of editors (developments versus line) who can help shape a book. She advised not to “quit your day job,” since writing a book, getting an agent, and finding a publisher can take years. 

And, Danielle, attending another Pathfinder Day, summed up what the preconference sessions are all about:

Another keynote session, moderated by one of BlogHer’s founders, offered a bit of reality:

Overall, the Path to Published Author session answered the “how do I do this book thing” question (well, at least the basic question; I have a whole lot of new questions now!):

And, finally, for everyone who asserts that the book is dead, Hank provided a more positive perspective:

Am on a path to being a published author? I don’t know that a one-day session can do that exactly. It can, however, inspire and offer up some much-needed food for thought.

My other great takeaway was Margaret’s books: they are now on my “to suggest to my book club” list. An unexpected perk!

Kids, Reincarnation, and Heaven

spiritually

The great perk of having kids so close in age—mine are only 22 months apart—is that they become close friends and confidants. R and G play together every day, negotiating games, make-believe tales, and the attention of Mom and Dad.

For me, by far, the best part of this closeness is when I overhear their conversations. Sometimes, I stand outside the room when they are playing together, quietly listening in as they chat about their toys or the cartoon they saw that morning. Other times, I’m in the room with them, observing as they take on a topic that’s new or difficult, or more serious than I would have thought appropriate for young kids. And, if I’m lucky, I manage to write down what they say, like this recent conversation, one that ended up being much more profound that I had anticipated:

“We’ll be brother and and sister forever,” G said.

“Even when we are underground,” agreed R.

“Will we see you up there?” they asked me. Startled by the depth of the conversation—how’d we get talking to about death and heaven?—I nodded.

I asked them about Heaven. What did it look like? What would they do there? They weren’t clear on specifics, though they were confident that they would see their grandfathers, who passed away before they were born, there.

“Maybe we’ll be a baby again,” G said. She loves babies; she loves the idea of being a baby.

“Maybe up there we can go backwards and start again,” wondered R, my philosopher.

I told them that some people believe that when you die, you can come back to Earth again as another person or an animal—a bird, a cow, or even a bug. They stared intently throughout my explanation of reincarnation, their little minds considering my words, processing this new idea.

“Do you believe it, Mama?”

Did I say yes? I’m not sure. I love the idea of getting a chance to make next time better, to learn from today. I love the hope that’s inherent in the concept of reincarnation. But I don’t know.

“I believe,” said G, emphatically. “And I’d be a kitty.”

She would, of course, be something cute and independent. And fierce.

Then, as with many kids’ conversations, they were quickly done, moving on to the next thing, leaving me behind to ponder what it all meant.

Photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

The First Day of School is 21 Days Away

redshutters_kindergarten

Three weeks from today is the first day of school in my town! 

This realization hit me today as I surfed through my calendar, looking for an opening for a meeting with colleagues. On August 26, 21 days away, my baby girl starts kindergarten. My son starts first grade. I am officially done with the day care years. I can’t say it’s sad, though I am, as always, amazed at the passage of time. Too fast.

 

When my son started kindergarten last year, I wrote a series of Getting Ready for Kindergarten posts. They were helpful to prepare our family for the big transition to elementary school, and since the start of the school year is back upon us, I wanted to highlight them again for you. Here are a few of my favorites to get you in the back-to-school mood:

 

We have the backpacks and lunch boxes ready. We’re waiting for class assignments (any day now!), and I have to schedule first day haircuts and get shoe shopping done. So much to accomplish in just three weeks!

 

What’s your favorite back to school tip? I’d love to hear your advice in the comments below. 

Should we get a dog?

“Should we get a dog?” is the one of the most frequently asked questions at our house these days. However, my kids, G and R, and have undertaken a very disorganized campaign for a dog. While it essentially entails talking about where the dog would sleep (G says her bed, R says his bed) and what the dog would be named (a current favorite is Bella), their arguments are not persuasive enough to make me say yes. G says she’ll feed it—once—and no one has claimed the responsibility of walking it every day, so the question lies there, unanswered.

For G’s recent birthday, my brother and sister-in-law sent her Zoomer, a robot dog (that’s G and Zoomer in the photo). The kids love Zoomer. He rolls over, barks, runs around in circles, and, much to the delight of the kids, lifts up his leg and pretends to pee. This is very funny if you’re a kid.

should_we_get_a_dog_red_shutters.jpgI never had a dog growing up. We were a fish and hamster family. So, this past spring, on a whim, I drove R and G to the pet store to purchase two beta fish, which they named Dashy Fish (after Dash in The Incredibles) and Chloe. They lasted a few months, but, after they died, it took the kids about three weeks to realize the fish tank was missing. They are not ready for a dog!

My husband, on the other hand, grew up surrounded by dogs. His father was a veterinarian so there was a dog in the house since before my husband was born. He even took his most beloved dog to college, where she lived with him at the fraternity house, waiting on the front steps for him to come home from class each day.

My husband’s adult life has been the longest he’s gone without a dog. He’s not persuaded that our family should take on a dog right now; it would be like a third child, he explained to me. That analogy slows down our decision to say yes. I’m allergic to dogs, too, so we’d need to go the hypoallergic route, which I sense is a disappointment for my Labrador-loving husband.

Despite the uncertainty about getting a dog, I found myself on Petfinder recently, trolling the pictures of rescue dogs for one that might be just right for our family. I narrowed my search to dogs that were good with kids. So many of them were cute, but, at each click, I became less certain. Interestingly, I’ve trolled on Petfinder before. Each time, it was around the time I became pregnant with R and G—a sign, I guess, that I was ready to expand our family. This time, though, it’s a dog that’s on the table—not another baby.

To complicate this question, at G’s five-year-old wellness check-up, her pediatrician, a woman I adore, who got me through those early baby years thanks to her support and wisdom, suggested that getting a dog might be a good idea for us. She recently capitulated to her kids’ requests for a dog, and while she’s had all of the responsibility for caring for the dog, it’s been a great addition to the family. “I didn’t want to hear when my kids were adults that I had deprived them by not getting them a dog,” she laughed. I smiled, but inside I thought, “uh-oh, something else to worry about.”

I shared our doctor’s advice with my husband over dinner last week, and R listened in, his ears perking up when I said “dog.” He has now incorporated the doctor’s advice into his campaign for a dog. “Mom, even our doctor says we should get a dog!”

We’ll see if that convinces us!

What about you? Do you have a dog? Tell me if you think we should get one in the comments!

What I Learned About Race at BlogHer14

I'm Going to BlogHer '14!Alternative titles for this post include: What I Learned About Adoption at BlogHer14. And Addiction. Parenting Children with Special Needs. Being LGBTQ. Mental Illness. Postpartum Depression.

These aren’t topics I blog about here on Red Shutters, and there’s a reason why: they are not my truth. The point of blogging is to share my perspective, experience, and point of view.  Sometimes, in my Roundup posts, I’ve shared pieces that address these topics, but, in my own writing, I don’t take them on.

I struggle sometimes to balance my desire to preserve my family’s privacy with the goal of cultivating this blog. Many of the bloggers and writers I met at BlogHer14, the tenth annual blogging conference sponsored by the BlogHer network, held last week in Silicon Valley, CA, take a completely different approach: they use their blogs as a platform to explore the challenges of their lives, and, in their vulnerability, they engage others, educate readers, and, in many cases, save lives. Their efforts give power to blogging in a way that likely had never been imagined when the first blog was developed.

What I took away from BlogHer14 was the importance of paying attention to the stories of others, especially those who have experiences that are different from mine. And what was unexpected was how much my experience at BlogHer14 shifted my worldview.

I heard from many women whose stories were uncomfortable, different, and powerful. I listened to them, and I hope I’ll be better for it.  All of the issues I listed above were discussed openly and with a rawness and deep power that blew me away. I hadn’t expected to get all that from BlogHer14—and that’s probably one of the best reasons to attend a conference of this kind: you get the awesome opportunity to step out of your familiar and learn from others—an honor that changes and shapes you.

I’d like to share some of the stories I heard. I hope they resonate with you as well.

My talented and kind friend (and conference roommate!), Phyllis Myung of Napkin Hoarder, was selected to be a BlogHer Voice of the Year (VOTY), reading this blog post aloud to the approximately 2,500 people in attendance. I witnessed blogger after blogger coming up to her afterward to compliment her on her work and to let her know how much her words meant to them.  They mattered to me, too, and took on new meaning when they became the open door into conversations about self-confidence, race, and fitting in.

Also during VOTY was a talk by A’Driane Nieves of Butterfly Confessions, who, in a brutally honest piece, faced the realization that modern-day America does not offer the safety and support that her family, including her sons, need.  Her fury at the injustice and racism that thrive in our society was heartbreaking, and will change how I talk to my own children about race in America.

Please read this piece by Janelle Hanchett of Renegade Mothering. Another VOTY presenter, Janelle’s piece has stayed with me ever since I first read it on her blog, and when she shared it front of her peers, I was in tears.

Inspiration came in the small sessions, too.

Natasha Nicholes of Houseful of Nicholes reminded bloggers that we should read the writing of others so we “understand that everyone’s house does not look the same.” By reading the blog of someone who has a vastly different experience than our own, we all can realize the power that exists in the private sphere to shape the world.

Jim Lin of Busy Dad Blog reminded bloggers that, by talking about issues of importance to us, things we are passionate about, we “have the power to change the conversation,” thereby influencing society. He made an excellent point about how celebrities endorse products, but bloggers create dialogue and initiate action.

In another session, I loved the wise words of Jasmine Banks of Just Jasmine who, during a discussion about negative blog comments (and there can a serious amount of negativity online), advised attendees to let the negativity “inform the gravitas of our writing” and to let go of others’ expectations and criticism. “Be a conduit,” she explained. “Let the negativity flow through you. Don’t be a vessel, holding it all in.” This is excellent advice for all of life—not just blogging.

The closing panel of BlogHer14 addressed the intersection of race, feminism, and gender. The panelists emphasized that issues of race, feminism, and gender are everyone’s business. No matter what your experience, you are responsible for being aware and educating yourself on these issues—and really anything that is meaningful to your family, community, and society at large. Lest that sound overwhelming, the fabulous Kelly Wickham of Mocha Momma, who I first heard speak at BlogHer13, advised us how to do this: when you come upon stories that are not your own but are impactful, share them. Pass them along to friends and family and let them know you were moved by what you heard and hope they’ll be, too—kind of like what I hope to do with this post and what I hope to do more of going forward. Perhaps I knew this already, but like all of the wisdom I came across at BlogHer14, I heard and connected with these ideas more profoundly than ever before.

And, there was more at BlogHer14: I went home oohing and aahing over Arianna Huffington’s advice (get more sleep!), Kerry Washington’s humanity, Kara Swisher’s wit, and Jenny Lawson’s humor and vulnerability. All of these keynoters were, as I had expected, terrific. BlogHer also featured a number of bloggers delivering short presentations, titled 10×10 talks, some of whom, such as Deb Rox, Alexandra Rosas, Awesomely Luvvie, and Katherine Stone were other highlights for me.

I would be remiss not to mention my most favorite part of the conference: I found a group of funny, lovely, and caring women who it’s pleasure to know and call my friends. Please check out their blogs, too: Another Version of Mother, A Wide Line, Busy Since Birth, Napkin Hoarder, and Squared Mommy.

Already, many BlogHer14 recap posts are popping up online, with assessments about the food, swag, and special events. As you can see, I’m not going to weigh in on those items; they are better suited for the conference evaluation. What I will say though is that, like any professional development/networking event, what you get out of something like BlogHer14 is what you put into it. I went to BlogHer14 for three reasons: 1) inspiration, 2) connections, and 3) blog strategies. I went home having hit all of my to dos.

Read about my experience at BlogHer13 here and here

She is 5

she_is_5_redshuttersShe is five years old today.

With big blue eyes and one missing tooth, she is a girl, no longer a baby. She is funny and loud and so excited about growing up. She is embracing her fifth birthday with joy and pride. She is especially interested in understanding how little she once was, now that she is, in her own words, so big.

“Mommy, do you remember when I was zero?” G asks, as I tuck her into bed for the night. I know she means when she was an infant; she was never a zero.

“Yes, when you were firstborn,” I say, smoothing her pale hair from her forehead.

“How big was I? Was I this big?” She holds her hands wide, stretched out almost as tall as she is now.

“No,” I reply, bringing her hands together to a space of about 21 inches. “You were this big.”

G thinks about this for a bit, but she is tired, so sleep pulls her in. I kiss her good night, and leave the room, turning down the light.

“Good night, baby.”

I’ve had 1,825 days of good mornings and good nights with her, and they have gone by so fast.  I measure time now by the steps she takes, the new words she learns, and the questions she asks.

She woke up early this morning, slipping into my bed for a snuggle.

“Mommy!” she whispers. “Mommy, today I am five!”

I hold her close. “I know. Happy birthday!”

I softly sing her the Happy Birthday song. She is indeed happy, already dreaming of the perks of five: permission to swim in the big pool at the recreation center, an upcoming birthday party, and the start of kindergarten. She looks ahead. I, for this moment, look back. I see a small baby sleeping in her crib, a toddler taking her first steps and laughing at something funny her big brother did, and a preschooler learning to use scissors and playing dress up. I see a head full of curly hair that has now straightened out, I hear her first word (“dada”), and I remember the awful day when she broke her arm. But that is the past, and she has much ahead, with many good mornings and good nights.

Her brother reminds her that there may be presents for her birthday, and they are off, out of my bed, to search for the small pile I placed in our den last night. Soon, I am called to join them, to start the birthday celebration, to welcome five.

Read my post to my daughter on her fourth birthday here.

 

9 More Job Search Tips

9morejobsearchtips

Last week, I shared 9 Job Search Tips I had gleaned from a recent spout of recruiting at work. In the comments of that post and via Facebook, I received some great responses from friends and colleagues and thus decided a part two was in order. Happy hunting!

  1. Be prepared – This one is so important it should be shouted from rooftops: BE PREPARED! It means that you should research the company where you are interviewing. Be able to explain to the interviewer what the company does and the responsibilities of the job. Run through potential interview questions with a friend and be able to answer all of them. Have a great answer to the “why should I hire you?” question; it’s a classic and often gets asked.
  1. Use the cover letter to your advantage – One of my pet peeves (only one, you ask?) is when someone applies for a job for which I am recruiting from outside of my state/region and I don’t know if they are really interested. Are they moving here? Or, are they randomly applying for jobs? This is important because often I am hiring in a compressed time period, and I might not have the flexibility to consider someone who has to relocate. This is where the cover letter can be helpful. Use it to explain anything that you really want the hiring manager to know (e.g., I’m moving to Boston in August, my family lives in New England and I am looking to move closer to them, etc.). It’s also a good place to note any people you have in common or if you know someone at the company who recommended that you apply for the position. Oh, and no typos!
  1. Try the informational interview – Asking for an informational interview can be a way to make a positive impression without the pressure of applying for a job. While informal, these meetings can provide you with a chance to learn more about the industry and make a valuable connection. Ask the person you’re meeting with for their advice about your career, bring your resume, and always send a thank you note afterward. Try to do these meetings in person versus over the phone (this is from personal experience), and, if it goes well, ask if you can get introduced to someone else, thereby extending the connection. I once had informational interviewing explained to me as “planting seeds for an opportunity that can grow down the line,” which I love. Make sure you cultivate those connections, and you never know what could come about.
  1. Be a grown-up – In other words, bring your best self to the meeting. Don’t chew gum during the interview (this happened to a colleague of mine), don’t talk about the party you went to last weekend, and don’t tell personal stories that present you in an immature or unprofessional light. Not sure if what you plan to share makes you look bad? Ask a family member or current co-worker.
  1. Don’t complain – About the commute to the interview, about the parking, about former or current colleagues, about your boss, about anything.
  1. Don’t lie – Your goal in the interview is to be your best you. I’d guess that your best you isn’t a liar, so be mindful of how much you embellish a story or your experience. A good reference check can draw out inconsistencies in your story, and you’ll be dropped from consideration.
  1. Use social media – This advice is from my husband, a LinkedIn power user. Years ago, when he was a full-time recruiter, he used LinkedIn as a tool to find candidates by searching on key words in their profiles. This can be a very successful technique for both recruiters and job seekers, so make sure your profile is up-to-date. As a prospective candidate, use sites like LinkedIn or Twitter to find people who work at the company or companies you’re interested in; it can be a helpful way to understand the corporate culture and what opinion leaders in your field are saying. Hand-in-hand with using social media to find a job is the concept of protecting your online presence: clean up your own social media profiles before beginning a search. I, for one, always Google a candidate, and the last things I want to find are inappropriate pictures on Facebook or a rant-filled Twitter feed.
  1. Ask first – Excellent references are a must. Be courteous of your references by asking them in advance to serve in this capacity and then give them a heads up when they will be contacted. And, send a thank you note afterward!
  1. Know your worth – In a recent Parade magazine interview about work-life balance, First Lady Michelle Obama talked about how women have to advocate for themselves in the workplace. “Negotiate hard and know your worth,” she advised. It’s a good tip – intimidating, too, but one that can change the workplace if we all try it.

As with my first post on this topic, I’d love to hear your additional ideas. Feel free to share them in the comments or over on the Red Shutters Facebook page.