How’s the Interviewing Skills and Some Thoughts for us Older Seekers

How’s the old interviewing skills these days? Lots of you are getting them now. Been out of practice for a while? Only interviewed at Target in the last 10 years?

Feels like the interview process out there in the world has changed a bit. Not to mention if you’ve been at Target for a long time, the way other companies do interviews is probably going to be quite different from you’ve experienced.

I was chatting with one of my friends about his progress through the interview process. He made the comment that while he thought it was going good, he didn’t think he’d had a “real” interview yet. “What makes you think that?, I asked. I haven’t had any behavioral questions yet. So far it feels like they’ve just been get to know you sorts chats. Nope, those are the interviews. HR organizations are HIGHLY disparate in their process, sophistication and approach to candidates. The good news is they’re not all as formal and structured as Target is.

At Target interviewing was a very prescribed process. In many cases, and for many jobs the questions were prewritten in a list. Interview “teams” would be assembled for given jobs, each interviewer would get their list of core competencies they were to ask questions about, all drawn of course from Target’s “approved list” of leadership dimensions. And after the interviews were completed the interviewers would compare notes and decisions were made. I find in talking to people that’s not very common out there. Certainly almost never happens at any mid-size or smaller company. Target folks, don’t expect the same rigor, which frankly I think is a good thing, that you had at Target.

And if you’ve been at Target for a while or just out of the interview game, it’s not like was the last time you put on the suit. Things have changed and you should be prepared.

So here’s some interview methods I’m hearing about-

  • The Group Interview. More and more companies are doing panel interviews, usually later in the interview process. Good news if you get the chance to do a panel interview, they probably like you and you’re most of the way there. Expect to be interviewed by 2-3 people, and often as part of that process you might be expected to create and deliver a presentation. They want to see how you think on your feet, evaluate your presentation skills and get a chance to compare notes based on a common interview. In other words get away from the “he/she didn’t do that when I talked to them”. Preparing for these inteviews, it might be helpful to really bone up your strengths and why you think you’re the best person on the planet for job you’re interviewing for. Chances are you’re going to be asked the same questions a couple different ways. If you’re well-grounded in what your strengths are and who you are, you should be rock star when it comes to giving clear and consistent answers to questions.

One general note about the group interview, also applies to one on one interviews. Sometimes, the best advice, and this is counter intuitive in interviewing is to STOP TALKING. If you ramble, if you find yourself over answering the question.. which you’ll know because you’ll find yourself wondering where you were going with this, if you get nervous and start chatting away.. STOP IT. If you’re in a group interview, your nervous as hell already, and you get that question that you just can’t answer, take a pause. Yup- take 5 seconds and stop what your doing and formulate your answer. Even if that answer is “I don’t know”. Which happens. Don’t take a pause to answer what college you went too, unless your my age and really did forget, but for tough questions.. it’s ok to pause to answer more thoughtfully. You’ll come off a lot more confident as well.

  • Automated Interviews. This is a new one for me. Heard a report of a company that provided a candidate with a link to an automated interview. The process worked like this. The link was received with a 48 deadline to complete the interview. During the interview the system would present the candidate with a question, give them 5 minutes to think about their answer, and then record their response. My sense, and this was more or less confirmed by the person who took the interview, these are very position specific questions that are designed to prove your competency for the job you’re applying for. It also gives HR a file they can pass around with your verbal responses. Basically they can get a feel for you before they meet you.
    To prepare for these interviews, I suggest that you read, read and read again the posted description of the job and have talking points ready to go when HAL9000 asks specifics. And since it’s automated, take notes and have them at the ready.
  • Video Conferencing. I suppose since businesses in general have become more virtual, why not interviews. A lot of folks are intimidated by thought of video conferencing for some reason. My advice here is to make sure you’re making eye contact with the camera on your computer. And obviously STAY FOCUSED on the camera in your computer. And do the obvious, especially if you’re talking the interview at home, look at see what’s behind you before you share it with you future employer, and for heaven’s sake put the dog out, unplug the phone and the doorbell and send the kids out to play with matches if you have to. You want the cone of silence.

All of the above seems pretty obvious. I mention it in case you’re hadn’t thought about the idea that you might be interviewing virtually, or with a group, or in a combination of both. Just be ready and go with the flow.

Us Older Folks-

Something that came up this week with some of my contacts who are older, they’re feeling like they may be having some issues with age discrimination. Fact is, they probably are. But it’s so subtle that even the persons doing it may not realize that they’re doing it. I was thinking about this quite a bit the last week and I’m thinking that like any other characteristic of your super powers, there might be ways you can use this in your favor, especially later in the interview process, after you’ve built a bit of rapport. Experience is a good thing if you can demonstrate that gives you the ability make connections and anticipate the impact of decisions. It’s a bad thing if it demonstrates that you still use an abacus. You get my point. Experience means you can look at data and make better contextual conclusions from it because you’ve got more context draw from.

If you can subtly bring that up and add it what a great mentor you’ve been over the years, that you make people around better at what they do, are free with information and have coached folks in your previous positions.. you’re going to be very interesting to a company that has a staff filled with folks who don’t have a lot of experience. Believe me, there’s a ton of those companies out there that would kill for that competency because you’re know helping them and their staff get better.

Also critical, demonstrate that you are a fast study and that you stay current in technology and trends.

Last word interviewers- look out for the “pigeon holers”. Lots of examples I’ve heard of HR reps, and typically these are younger in their careers, who have a req in their hands and check list of what they’re looking for and if you don’t have one of the items on the check list, you’re out in the initial screening. I had a contact I was working with who had years of high level merchandising and optimization experience at Target. She is fantastic and I was able to help her get an interview at a major ERP software provider. They were looking for someone to support their presales effort, meet with potential customers and talk to them about how their software would meet their needs. This woman would have been the bomb, with her Target experience she would have commanded attention with any retailer she met with. And in the interview screening process she was eliminated in the first 10 minutes because she had “no sales experience”. Conversation ended right there. The way you get around this one is, once again, prep. Read, read and re-read the job posting if you can. Do your research on the company and their business. Know what they’re looking for before you talk. She didn’t have “formal” sales experience by I guarantee you she is highly skilled at persuasion, influencing other and negotiating deals. Exactly what sales people do.

Now, sometimes the HR person is so black and white you just aren’t going to get around them. Some roles require certification, can’t get around that either. But if my friend had repositioned her opening statements to “I leverage impact and influence to sell my executive team on new initiatives..” May not of worked, but you never know, it may have.

At some point it’s a numbers game, more touches=more opportunities.

Stay positive peeps. It’s been a couple months now and I’m starting to hear about folks getting hired. I told you it would take 6-8 weeks. Good things are ahead. And if you haven’t started yet.. Not too late.

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That Guy

An observation from the front lines of American business, the airport. On a weekday.

I keep running into “that guy”. Which guy you ask?

Missing- Middle aged guy, grey hair, goatee, tan pants, blue striped shirt, navy blazer, brown tassel oxford shoes.

Sound like anyone you know? The airport is crawling with them, it’s like a fucking uniform. Actually, a pretty comfortable uniform if you ask me. I like uniforms, I find the idea of wearing the same thing every day comforting. Mrs S complains that left to my own devices I’d wear the same thing every day. Not exactly sure that’s a problem really. And really, it’s not true, there’s weekends and sporting events where I’d be sure to mix it up.

Ah who am I kidding? Honestly I’d wear that blue shirt thing every day if I could, black T and jeans on the weekends. Have I stopped caring how I look after 30 years of marriage? Better question for you, did I really ever care? If it weren’t for Mrs S’s gender linked “fix him” trait, I’d still be wearing flannel.

I’m off tack, my point is most dudes, straight ones anyway, would be only too happy to have no choices in apparel. It’s all so damned complicated and at the end of the day lame. One reason I don’t do much with the Mason’s anymore- tuxedos and suits. If my kids are reading this, if you want me to attend your weddings please make them causal, otherwise no guarantees. Unless Mrs S gets involved. Thankfully two of our three kids are boys which means there’s a very very good chance that she’ll get shut out of the wedding planning by her future daughter in law’s mother. I’m not sure how that works out for me personally because I’m sure I’ll be on the receiving end of a lot of criticism and complaints..

What was that? I’m predicting problems? You bet I am, with 90% certainty. In addition to finding solace in uniforms I also find solace in historic patterns in human nature. It is what it is, deal with it.


Being the cold shower of reality in my house BTW, also makes me “that guy” apparently. I


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Now that you’ve been out of work for a bit, how’s it going?

Hey Target friends, how’s it going? I wanted to check in with you guys, it’s been about a month since the layoffs. I have the chance to talk to a bunch of you over the last few weeks. Thank you for thinking enough of me that you’d seek me out to connect on things. Means a lot to me,

While we’re chatting here are some observations that I’ve had. Lots of you were very kind to say nice things about my blog post a few weeks ago. I must have touched a nerve because I’ve received more feedback on that piece than the previous 8,000 or so I’ve written. Among the things I’ve heard is that the piece resonated and validated some of the feelings that you were having about the layoffs, and that in some small way you found some gleanings from it that helped out.

Best compliment I’ve ever received. I helped out.

So, in that vein I want to check back and see how things are going.

My sense is, for some of you, reality is starting to set in. Reality in the sense that this job search thing isn’t going to be easy. Even the folks who left Target at 11:30 that Tuesday morning with a box in their hand, went home and had resumes in cyberspace that afternoon, most of them are still looking. Just to reiterate what I’d mentioned before, in my experience the fastest companies still take 6 weeks to vet a candidate and move from initial screening interview to hire. Keep up the optimism and keep working your plan.

You do have plan right?

One thing I’ve heard from more than a few of you is that you’re starting to feel isolated. One transition that the job search books don’t really prepare you for, or maybe can’t prepare you enough for, is the transition of going from a busy, deadline filled, meeting loaded week of activities to one where you’re time is pretty much your own, and conversations with other folks.. almost only happen when you make a call or attend an event.

That’s a really hard change, don’t underestimate it! The advice I’d give, which you’ve also been given by every job search website, book and seminar out there, is to set a schedule for yourself every day and stick to it! I get concerned when I hear folks, and I’ve heard more a few, start to say how they’re having trouble figuring out what they want to do next, and how to approach their search, and that they’re having trouble feeling connected. Personally I believe these go hand in hand, you trained yourself for your entire career, well Target trained you, to think on your feet, to prepare for deadlines, to facilitate executive reviews, manage plans and to execute, execute, execute. Those meetings and time sucks created guard rails for you to plan your days and accomplish your work. Now you have no guard rails, your reference points are gone and it’s hard to focus. You’ve been driving on freeway for 20 years and now you’re driving in a huge empty lot with no lines or parking spaces and it’s tough to navigate.

Make a schedule for your own sake. And when your scheduling don’t forget to include time meeting with people, networking with a few former colleagues would probably be helpful. I’d suggest creating job search plans and sharing them with a couple friends who are in the same situation, and hold each other accountable for outcomes. Just my thought.

There’s a few of you I’ve talked to who are disoriented enough that you’re still in a period of shock and mourning. If I know several, I’m sure my many of you know several more. Folks, please reach out to people who you haven’t heard from since the layoffs, or who have withdrawn or aren’t doing anything to move forward. My experience in change management says that 20% of a population has enormous difficulties with change. I encourage all of us to reach out to these guys, take a few minutes, make a phone call… don’t email unless you have no other way to get ahold of them the personal chat gives you a chance to hear their voice, and they yours. Chat about what they’re up too, offer to have coffee, let them know you’re here to listen. That’s it. 10 minutes. You will make a difference.

And do it again a week or so later.

For a few of you, you’ve been lucky enough to get interviews, you’ve made it past the screeners and you’re starting to get down some brass tack negotiations. Shockingly I have some thoughts here as well.

If I could do one thing to interact personally with you guys through this blog it would be to turn words into a giant boot and collectively kick the lot of you squarely in your Target Red behinders. If I could cash checks for the amount of collective undervaluing I hear from my friends at Target, I swear I could buy a new MacBook and still have enough to pay of the US National debt. You guys are making easy for the recruiters out there to get your talents for cheap.

I get it. You need a job. But needing a job doesn’t mean you don’t negotiate peeps. Just because you’re out of work doesn’t mean you don’t have leverage.

Couple things to think about in the hiring process folks. Common sense, you probably know them already, but just hear it once again from Uncle Sank.

  1. If you made it through a screening call, 3 hiring managers, 4 peers and an HR person, if they flew you to Austin, or flew the New York team to Minneapolis to meet with you, THEY’RE INTERESTED. The have decided that YOU have a skill, a product if you will, that fills a critical need they have and they’re willing pay for it. Got it. So please stop feeling like you’re just grateful to be considered and will take what they offer. Don’t give away your bargaining position in the screening call. See #2
  2. When the HR Rep on the second call in the interview process asks you “Can you tell me what your compensation at Target was?” The correct answer is NOT what your compensation at Target was. Got it? Seriously.
    They’re going find out but let’m find out after you’ve been offered a job. Folks, here’s the deal with HR. The HR person gets evaluated on finding talent for as cheap as they can. When they ask what you were making and you say $100K, what you just done is given them a reference point to low ball you on your future salary. As “hmm. $100K, out of work, I can probably get Sank for $90, I’ll start at $85 and see what I can do”. And because we all worked at Target for 20 years where salary negotiations were limited to “do you want me to tell you the number before I read your review, or at the end”, we’re not very good at it.
    The correct answer is “Before we talk about what I made, can you tell what the range for the position
    is?” of, if you’re feeling really confident “I’m looking for a positon that pays X, is that realistic for this job?” Think about this, what if the last person in this role made $200K and you tell them you made $90K at Target. You see where I’m going. Be assertive but professional.
  3. Good cop, bad cop. Typically you’ll have an interview with HR, they’ll screen you, then you’ll talk to the hiring manager, maybe their boss, maybe a few folks in the department, and then back to HR. The goal is for your future manager and you to connect so develop a desire to take the job. That’s the good cop. Then back to HR for the reality check, which typically sounds like “now about your salary requirements, they’re not really realistic…” Now you’re in negotiation mode, but at least you’ve set precedent that they’re going to have to work to get you. That’s a good thing, But since you’re back talking money THEY WANT YOU. Don’t fold up at the first offer.
  4. “But I already told them what I make”. That’s OK, there’s other things to negotiate on. Matter of fact, regardless of salary, you should never, ever, in any negotiation limit the discussion to one metric. There’s vacation, 3 weeks instead of starting at 2, working from home, tuition reimbursement, sabbatical after five years, hell, lots of stuff. . Bottom line is you have options. Think about them, create a position or a bottom line, and negotiate from strength. You deserve it, your training and all the experience you’ve earned at Target is extraordinarily valuable. What? You don’t believe me? Retailers are paying consultants $300 an hour for management advice from kids who have never actually worked in a real front line retail job. You know that’s the case, you worked with them at Target.

Now some bad news. I’m concerned, again based on what I’m hearing from folks, that some of the companies coming in here to recruit are lowballing salaries figuring theirs a talent glut at the moment. I think it’s a combination of Target paying really well and a little bit the former. Leads to my last, and maybe most important piece of advice.

  1. Base your decision on what you want to do, not on the money. A boss once told me, as I was being given my 1.2% annual raise that “money is a short term motivator”. And while his timing sucked, the message is true. It is. You all deserve jobs you love. If you can make your decisions based on that idea, the rest will come.

Take care, make connections and stay focused and call a friend.

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Timberwolves Hope for Next Season, Adios Ricky Hello Jahlil

A few weeks ago I re-upped my Timberwolves season ticket membership. My plan this year was to negotiate a little harder with the Wolves, I wanted to upgrade my seats a bit but pay the same price I did last year. I figured it was only fair given that I absorbed a pretty serious increase last year, under the guise that I was paying for Target Center improvements, and my ticket rep would not negotiate. I caved.  Checking in Mrs S, who has been after me for the last few years to save some money and frustration by not renewing begrudgingly agreed, but I could tell that negotiations with her were going to be tougher as well in the coming years in something didn’t change. Her point, I’m paying more money for tickets that the Wolves typically give away for free. 
It’s a valid point.
I’ve had NBA season tickets, between the Warriors and the Timberwolves, for the better part of 25 years. You could say I’m a “fan”. Which means I’m also a terrible negotiator. Fan is short for Fantatic which is Sports Marketing speak for SUCKER. 
And my seats suck, no other way to say it. They’re upstairs, about 15 rows up in the corner. I sit where I do because I’m also cheap, really cheap. I want somehting for nothign and when the team is this bad you’d think I’d be able to get something…
When I talked to my rep this year about upgrading, he told me, “if you don’t hurry up you might not get the same seats you have this year.” Clearly he went to a negotiations training seminar where one of the topics was ‘handling objections’. I called him on it. 90% of the games I go too, I’m literally one of 6 people in my section. Not row, section, as in the entire 200 seat section. Mrs S hates going to games because, as she has noticed when there are other people in my section, they’re there on comped or discounted tickets. 
We sit in the charity seats and they made you pay more for them!

Another good point. 
You (me) paid for upgrades to the Target Center and in the upper deck, they close half the concessions because no one is up there. What exatclty did I get for my money?
Gawd damn the good points just keep coming for her. 

This year my negotiations were going well, the ticket guy was going to take my offer to renew at once if I could get the seats I wanted back to his management and “work something out”. That was on a Friday. Later that day it was announced that Kevin Garnett was coming “home”, the return game was sold out and my ticket guy gave me the “Sorry man, demand is super hot, take it or leave it.” 
I took it, because my Fandom got head of my Smartdom. I completely forgot that when the Wolves say “sold out” they mean “gave away half the seats”, I’d failed to remember that for the Garnett homecoming, season ticket holders were comped an extra ticket for every one they owned. On Opening Night btw- which was full but not sold out, season ticket holders were comped 2 tickets for every one they owned. I had six tickets to give away. That’s why it was full, Minnesotians will see the team for free apparently, at least to the tune of half an arena. 
Side note- the last two years on opening night, guys I gave my comped tickets too were upgraded to lower level, just off the floor, in order to fill in the bowl for TV. Meanwhile, the guy who actually paid for the seats got to enjoy taunting texted photos from his crappy friends from the floor whilst enjoying the view from the upper deck. Yah me.
Well, fast forward a month and the Kevin Garnett homecoming has turned into yet another Timberwolves busta-ruski. KG played in 5 of last 25 games and is done for the season, joining the rest of the starters on the bench. I get it, Garnett is 38 (108 in NBA years), a veteran of 19 years of grueling NBA schedules, his knees are shot and quickness gone. But for 5 glorious nights he sold a shitload of tickets, a few more season tickets while ruining my negotiating confidence. 
The KG  Homecoming in marketing terms however now looks like a classic Bait and Switch. 
Hating aside I am optimistic for the future at the Wolves Arena. We have a very strong core of young players who are going to be exciting if they can stay healthy. Apparently “staying healthy” is a challenge so big for these Wolves, that I’m starting to wonder about our fitness and training staff. 

However as a member and fan there’s some changes that need to be made as well:

We need to cut some bait. 

We have some veterans on this club who frankly need to go bye bye. 

  1. Nicola Pekovic– The Godfather is 29, gets paid $12M a year and plays in about 2/3 of the games in any given season. This season, the year after the big contract extension, 37%. I know can’t control injuries, but his in the games he as played in this year, he’s been well below his average, especially his average last year when he was playing for a new contract. I think it’s time to part ways with the big man and try again. 
  2. Rickey Rubio– Man I so wanted this to work out. I once believed that we’re a better team when he’s on the floor because of him, and record wise we are, but tricky facts have me wondering if it’s really Ricky or would any real point guard work and is improvement really because Wiggins and company are better at what they do? Fact is Rubio has not panned out as the elite point guard the Wolves told us he’d be. Amazing passer no doubt, incredibly fun to watch. But in the box scores “incredibly fun” is not a stat that wins games. 
    Looking at Rubio’s stats over the last 4 years there’s a couple glaring things to note.
    #1- He is FRAGILE. His games played per year numbers, worse than Peks.. Rubio has played ONE complete season in 4 for the Wolves. This year, a dismal 22/82. I get it that you can’t control injuries but Ricky seems to get more than his share. Way more. Steph Curry, Chris Paul, most other PG’s.. play the season, and the playoffs to boot. Something’s up wiht Ricky. 
    #2- FLAT LINE IMPROVEMENT- In my head, after watching Rubio for four years and getting caught up in the “fun to watch” hype, I found myself believing that he’s really getting better as an NBA Player. A quick look at stats however say otherwise. In four years Rubio has made almost ZERO progress in points per game (where he’s downright bad), assists per game, steals per game or FG%. Leading me to believe that 1) I was right 5 years ago when I said that a guy who scored 4 points per game in the Spanish League would have a hard time scoring in the NBA and 2) what we see now with Rubio, is exactly what we’re going to get for the rest of his career. 

Which means… hard, big boy question time. Are we really better with Rubio OR are we better with any decent point guard, like say Moe Willams? Would it in fact be better OK to shop Ricky around and see if we can improve somewhere else while trying to sign a free agent like Dragic, Brandon Knight, Mo Willams or Reggie Jackson?  I’m thinking it might be time to say adios to Lil’ Ricky. 

That being said the future is bright. Here’s why I’m optimistic:

  1. Andrew Wiggins is the real deal. He’s the kind of kid you can build a franchise around. He’s 19, lives at home with Mom and Dad and seems to be doing the right things. And.. he’s gotten better over the course of the season. Since the All Star break… 8PPG over his season average. Improvement is good. 
  2. Zach LaVine- two months ago, I wasn’t a big fan. Now.. I see some hope. Kid is athletic as hell and as my good friend the GQ Jew says “athleticism wins”. One of the Wolves issues in my opinion is they play LaVine at point guard when I think he should be a #2. His assist to turn over ratio is um.. embarrassing, 1:1 basically. But with Rubio perpetually out we had to do something… His defense is also atrocious but over the last couple months.. I’ve seen improvement leading me to believe that the Wolves #1 Draft pick and the other 19 year old on the team might have a bright future with the club, especially if keeps hitting threes. Bottom line on Zach- experience and game smarts will fix a lot of his issues. And top having him bring the ball up… 
  3. Adrian Payne- Atlanta’s #1 pick came to the Wolves in February and has really shined. To the point where I could see him being a starter at Power Forward with the club. Or at least splitting time with Deng. I like his game and I like his presence on the floor. Diamond in the rough. 
  4. Lottery balls- Flip Saunders got pretty pissed with the Utah press when they suggested he was tanking for lottery balls. Frankly it was dumb question at the time given that the wolves had gone into Utah with 7 players available and beaten the Jazz.. but strategically I’m not sure they’re not right. And frankly at this point it’s a good strategy. We need a big man bad, and in the upcoming draft there are two whom I would be really excited about; Jahlil Okafor from Duke and Willie Cauley-Stein form Kentucky. Both could be game changers in three or four years. Centers are gold and if you don’t get one early on you miss out. The issue with playing for lottery balls however is that that hasn’t worked well for the Wolves. Matter of fact we’ve defined unlucky in that department for years. But you have to try, as they in the NBA “You don’t make what you don’t take”. 

I’m actually excited for next year, I see a real shot at .500, I just wish I could see better. Hopefully I’ll be able to self upgrade at will like I did this year in another empty Timberwolves Arena. 

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Holiday Confusion

i did the kosher shopping for Passover today. There’s three or four place in town that are well stocked for the holiday, grocers in Jewish neighborhoods. Helps to localize your assortments. Also helps to get in early before the Jewish Food Rush.
I hate buying this Passover stuff- unlevened fake food that 10X the price it should be. Take the madel cuts… $10.00 for a box of what is essentially bad biscotti. But good enough to dip in coffee. Especially given the alternative coffee treat, matzo. Or a piece of lettuce.
Matzo farfel..
Farfel in Yiddish refers to a pellet flaked peice of pasta. Think Jewish gnocci only smaller and without mushrooms. Spatzle might be a better analogy. At Passover we use Matzo Farfel, which is basically a can of busted up pieces of matzo thats 2X the cost of the same stuff only from the box the forklift didn’t hit. Mrs S uses farfal to to make kugal. Fake noodle pudding that’s actaully.. pretty decent.
I bought a can.
For about $20.00. Well not really but it felt like it.
Bought 4 boxes of Matzo. That was actually cheap. And we’ll save money on TP when we’re all backup by the middle of next week. See how that works :). Cut here, save there..
OK moving on.
But I felt really good about the fact that I was helping.
As I was laying on the sofa wondering what to write about in my blog, in barges Mrs S with that look on her face.. the one that I’ve learned over the years that means whatever question she asks next… I’m better off not answering. I.e. there is no right answer.
She had a can of farfal in her hand, cooking tip maybe?

She looked at me..
“This is Peach, not Hunukkah”.
Trick question.
To tricky, I didn’t know where she was going.
“What miricle are you expecting that’s going to make 4 dishes of kugal out of one can of farfel?”

My blank stare said it all. “I’ll go back tomorrow”
I hate it when I dissppoint. At least she didn’t ask about the butter sugar and apples.
She’s back
“ “… indicates she looked at me, was going to say something, made her pathetic face, and turned around..
She came back..
“You were at the store, where’s the butter, sugar and apples?”
For that I had an answer, “I was only focused on parve (kosher for Peach, or as the kids used to say ‘K4P’ food”.

“Not the most strategic shopper in the world are ya?”
I don’t know, going to the grocery store every night beats some other alternatives. Like this little chat.
I shouted after her- “Anything else I can forget?”

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So, You’re In Transition…

Last week Target laid off 1700 employees from their Minneapolis headquarters.

To put it bluntly, it was a bloodletting. Lots of extremely talented people from what was once one of the most respected brands in retail, and admired companies in the Twin Cities, found themselves learning about Cobra, severance packages and shareholder value. It’s a sad thing to see folks displaced and out on the street, regardless of the circumstances. I spent 26 years at Target myself, I feel some comradery with these folks, and since the layoffs were announced I’ve spend double overtime trying to connect with people and help them with networking, resumes etc.

It’s been really really interesting. The last few years I’ve been volunteering with an organization here in town to do resume help, interview prep and search skills. Not to mention I’ve been looking for jobs since 1996, so I like to say I’m qualified to offer some advice. Now Target expats are a little different from the folks coming out of prison or rehab, I don’t have to coach around 7 years being out of the workplace, but in many ways, they’re not.

I’ve had a chance to talk on the phone, meet over coffee, and chat with a ton of folks. It’s been very interesting to me. Personally I laid myself of from Target, it was important to me that I leave on my own terms and I’m quite happy to say that in that respect I was successful.

So I want to offer some perspective, some advice if you will- First of all, it’s OK to be angry. People are apologizing for what essentially is there emotions getting away from them because they’re pissed off. You should be pissed, you got screwed. You have one day to be pissed and feel sorry. ONE DAY. Easier said than done. Just my advice. And those who are left who might read this, I told everyone I knew for 20 years, remember folks, we’re all free agents. Never kept a single picture or personal item at my desk in the time I worked a Target because frankly it reminded me that loyalty is only as good as the next annual report.

Now I’m done with that.

Next up, some good news, you’re unemployed in one of the best labor markets I can remember. I’m old, I remember a lot. And the Target brand on your resume, carries a tong of weight.

You still have to do some work. So a couple words of advice for the job seekers out there, learned from my own experience of leaving Target.

  • On the outside, we’re all equals. Target was very hierarchal place, lots of team, lots of management, lots and lots of layers. And, in most pyramids it was pretty structured. Now that we’re all outside the walls, we’re all on the same level. So, when you talk to folks who were three levels below you, never know they might have that connection or lead you were looking for, talk to them like equals. Say thank you and please for example. Same goes when you’re talking to folks who were 11 levels over you. As Red Green says, we’re all in this together.
  • Shed the Bull. Office politics got in the way of a lot of stuff at Target. Couldn’t help it, when you force rank your people twice a year, in my opinion you start to create a toxic atmosphere. Here on the outside however, none of that stuff matters. When people talk about folks they worked with, managed, worked for, well now at this point in our lives, when everyone is unemployed, drop the baggage and stick to all positive. I’m talking about the old “was a good guy, needed to work on blah blah blah”. At Target we said that all the time, it was the culture. Out here, when you talk about people like you’re still managing them, doesn’t play well, you sound pretentious. And when folks are asking for names for positions, don’t pre-filter your friends because you don’t think this person or that person would be a good fit. I’m not saying that you need to recommend someone you know is a slacker or of poor character, that will come back on you, but if it’s simply that you just don’t see Sally in a role because when you were working with her at Target her attention to detail wasn’t to your expectations, respectfully STFU and let Sally and her potential employer sort that out.
  • Recommend folks whom personally you didn’t along with but whom you respect. Its good for the Kharma, and good for your brand. Don’t recommend folks whom you like a lot but don’t respect. That one BTW… is really hard. Ran into it Monday. Fun guy in a bar, asshole of a boss, treated people like crap, pass.
  • If you’re not picking up a theme here; be nice, go out of your way for strangers, do the right thing etc. People want to network with positive people. They AREN’T going network with crabby complainers who bitch about how things used to be, or how good they had it… or how great they were. If no one is returning your calls… may be time to assess yourself.
  • Brag a bit. All of us have done great work. Now we don’t have bosses or Mom’s to talk about it in public. Keep in mind bragging and boasting are two different things.
  • Keep it short. Keep EVERYTHING short. Resumes. Interviews. Bragging. Whatever you do. Nothing worse than the guy with 25 years’ experience changing the world who takes another 25 to tell you about it. That just leads to two dead guys. No one wants to read a 10 PP email either. Work on your elevator speech and stick to it. If they want to know more about something, they’ll ask.

Severance Package Poison

Finally, and this for those folks just starting this process, sitting on big fat severance packages. STOP RIGHT NOW with the “I’m going to take some time before I start looking.” Or “I just need to chill for a bit” “not ready to jump back in..”. I’m here to tell you that line of thinking will bring you to the end of your payout faster than you think. I get that this is traumatic, I get that you feel like you need a break. But as a coach who’s seen this playout, I challenge you to look in the mirror and ask yourself, how long a f’n break do I need? It’s been week, get of the beach and start looking. Good reference point here is the spouse, especially if they’re not working. They’ll tell you to get moving.

Couple points on this:

  1. All this networking, preparation, resume writing… it all takes time. Weeks and weeks. Sooner you start the less stress when the money is starting to run low.
  2. If you were to get a first interview with an employer TODAY, chances are, with most employers it will be a minimum of 6 weeks before you even get an offer. 6 weeks is a pretty decent break if you ask me.
  3. You can always negotiate your start date if you feel like you need more time. Wouldn’t it be better to be negotiating a start date for a new job knowing where you are ok financially, rather than the opposite?
  4. 1700 people are looking with you right now. You want to be in the lead pack (Go getters) or wait a month and then start digging around? Be BOLD.

And as you prepare for your next big adventure… couple things I told a good friend today as he’s starting to look around.

  • Money ain’t everything. Having a job you like may mean a pay cut. Figure out what your bottom line is before you get into interviews. Knowing that little tidbit will give you more options and let you be more confident in your discussions with employers.
  • Take time. Do some up front research to know what you really want to do? You’ve been given a gift, you’ve been separated from a company with a golden egg. Don’t waste the chance to do a couple days, week of assessments or soul searching to figure out what your life’s work really is. If you’re lucky enough to figure that out, the passion you emanate in your interviews will guarantee you get that job!
  • Finally what’s your tolerance for risk? There’s a lot of great jobs out there in companies with 10 employees. Are you OK with a company that might not make it? Or where you might take hit early in pay, with big rewards down the road. Or are you more of a big stable company person. Knowing this about yourself will help a lot.

There you go. Ramblings from a chronic job searcher.

Get out there and EARN.

And if you know anything about pricing or BI send me a note I know a lady.


Filed under Life

Paradigm Shift – Jews and Democrats

There are some things that are almost a given in this country, and among them, Jews will vote Democratic.

In most years in something approaching an 80/20 ratio. I think it was John Stewart, who I heard quoted this week “What is about being rich and white that Jews don’t get?”

The last Republican to get close 40% of the Jewish vote was Ronald Regan when he destroyed Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election, Regan got 39%. Today, I think if you polled Jews on Jimmy Carter vs Regan, or those numbers would soar to like 40% or 41%. And if you were to poll Carter vs Abstain I think in Jewish circles Abstain wins by 90%.

My republican friends are consistently bewildered at how a group of well off white folks, many many of whom come from humble roots, who worked hard, value education and now are living the American Dream can continue to vote against their best interests with the Democrats. It is an interesting question.

There’s been a ton of stuff written about this over the years, personally in my opinion and experience it comes to a few core values on the Republican side that alienate Jewish voters.

The Religious Right.

This is a tricky one. One of my closest friends in the world, who considers himself to be in Religious Right camp, asks me quite often about Jews don’t vote Republican. He doesn’t understand why most Jews don’t see the Fundamentalists as allies given their support Israel, their love of the Bible, Old and New Testaments. You guys should be on board with us…

What he doesn’t have in his experience is Jewish collective memories that nag us around the idea that the past, from the Crusades, to the Reformation to Billy Graham, when our Christian neighbors become more zealous and start wielding political power, it almost never works out well for religions minorities. This experience comes from our being the religious minority of choice for Christians in this country for the last 250 years. Today, I see most religious themed attacks directed to Muslims in this country, but the rhetoric and methods are very familiar. The idea that Muslims are a fifth column waiting to take over or that Muslim’s don’t believe in the same God that “we” do, sounds familiar to us Jews., only 20 years ago the head of the largest Protestant denomination in the United States proclaimed that “God doesn’t hear the prayers of Jews” because Jews, in his belief, or as he articulated, are “blasphemers”. Actually replace “Muslims are Terrorists” with “Jews control the Media or the Banks” or whatever you care to add, and the analogies become consistant.

That’s not all, any talk about eliminating the separation between Church and State, makes us uptight. Prayer in school, Intelligent Design, Same Sex Marriage, there is a long list of religiously tied themed issues that are on the opposite side of my world view, and most of my coreligionists. Even the hottest one all, abortion. It’s a religiously based issue that I find myself on the wrong side off from the Right, and since they’re using it a litmus test these days, it’s one I fail and therefore, don’t really feel like I can be a Republican.

While I’m thinking about it, ironically, the other problem with the Evangelicals is not so much their support for Israel, is that their support is typically for the Israeli Right. When biblical paradigms are applies to modern politics, ignoring the situation on the ground, no one wins. Most Jews in the US are not big fans of the Israel and fewer still, in the US and in Israel consider biblical concepts in the same literal way that Evangelical Christians do. As a matter of fact, I find that line of thinking to be quite dangerous, and would lead to Israel’s destruction quite frankly. Not to mention, from a theological point of view, on the FAR right, there’s a Christian specific “End of Times” theology, Armageddon scenarios, that really make me queasy.

So at the end of the day, I, and I’m not alone, get really really nervous about the Religious Right. I’m more happy about what they’re not doing- attacking Jews than what they are doing, supporting us. Support, in my perspective, is fickle.

Immigration, Civil Rights.

The Republican party was founded on the ultimate civil rights platform- emancipation from slavery. Given that in two weeks I’ll sit down with my family and retell the our own experience with slavery 4000 years after the fact leads me to wonder where the Republicans took a right turn on the civil rights platform.

160 years slavery, the Party’s record on civil rights and inclusion is dismal. My friends on the Right hold that there’s nothing more democratic and more empowering for minorities than freedom and economic opportunity. I agree. As would most Jews. And then politics come into play. Gutting the voting rights act. Blocking immigration reform. Opposing GLBT rights. Jews have, for the most part, been active in Civil Rights issues for 150 years. We were early adopters to organized protests for civil rights and economic justice. Back when we were doing it was called the “Labor Movement”. No surprise that one of America’s most vehement Anti-Semites was none other than Henry Ford. My Dad was old enough to remember when Mr Ford argued that “International Jewry” aimed to enslave mankind, when he published in English the Czar’s propaganda hit piece “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and pushed for an expansion of Jim Crow laws include Jews. All of which earned him several awards and citations from the Nazis. Henry didn’t want is workers dictating their conditions of employment.

The experience of 2000 years of being a religious and cultural minority means that now Jew identify
strongly with the rights of minorities in society. Until 1948 we were just that in every country where we lived. As a result, today I and we find it nearly impossible to align with a political party that on the surface at least, appears to be willing to sacrifice Civil Rights for political gain. Vote suppression for example, a big issue in the last election, huge issue for Jews given that so many Jews were deeply involved in registration drives and urban get out the vote campaigns.

Other Issues

Gun rights- Jews typically don’t own guns. We’re an urban folk with very little connection to rural lifestyles. We didn’t grow up hunting and for us, most exposure to guns is the urban environment which means crime. Most folks I know wouldn’t own a gun, we don’t see it as a viable option for self-defense. So when the NRA and Republicans support conceal and carry and liberal registration laws, Jews in general are strongly opposed. They see this as putting more guns on the street which exacerbates the problem of urban violence. I’m not arguing the merits of the discussion here, I’m simply pointing out why they’re where they are.

Tax Reform- For whatever reason, right or wrong I’ve honestly never heard a discussion about taxes being too high in my political discussion with other Jews. To the contrary I tend to hear more discussion about supporting social programs, and doing so from a government perspective.


And this is where we diverge. The discussion of Israel and support for Israel at the moment is at the heart of the alignment gap between American Jews and the left wing of the Democratic Party. Between the BDS Movement and the war against Hamas over the summer the Palestinians and Anti-Zionist talk track is getting a ton of attention, specifically on College campuses where it’s starting to bleed over into blatant Anti-Semitism. (See UCLA last month) I’m not going to get into the discussion about the merits or mistakes of their arguments today, I simply want to point out at that as an agenda item, the more traction this gets in the Democratic party the more uncomfortable Jews, myself included, feel in that party. When I go to a local Caucus to talk about state legislature candidates and the first speaker proposes an “Israel is an Apartheid State” resolution, which has happened twice now in my experience, I’m heading for the door. And, I’m likely throwing the baby out with the bathwater on all the other liberal issues where we do have alignment.

Personally for me my big epiphany came this summer when I was sitting in a shelter near Kiryat Gat for the second time in 20 minutes waiting for Hamas rockets to explode nearby. That experience, and then going to watch the news and hearing John Kerry and Barak Obama talk about Israel’s inappropriate response to the rocket fire… Watching Kerry talk about “investigations” needed because Israel bombed a UN school in Gaza. Regardless of the stores of weapons underneath it. Or the UN offices near Rafa in Gaza where Israel was condemned for attacking with troops despite the fact that the building was a terminus for a tunnel that extended into Israel, the army was in hot pursuit of gunman who had just attempted to abduct a hostage, one who’d been killed in the process, and were returning fire to the building.. I remember thinking “I’ll never vote Democrat again”. Now I’ve tempered a bit.. but Netanyahu’s visit has me wondering again.

BTW the Senators who wrote the letter to Iran.. At best, not helpful. At worst, flat out treason. I’m not sure where I come down even though I agree with the general premise.

Like the speech, I found not one thing to disagree with. Don’t like the timing, or the methods but the speech itself, I agree with. And my faith in this administration to negotiate hard with Iran? Zero.

Sub Zero. I see us caving just like the worse president in US history, James Carter did in his negotiations with the same country and essentially the same group of people.

Eric Yoffie, the former head of the Union of Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish religious affiliation in the US wrote a scathing article in Ha’aretz last week about Bibi’s speech and basically saying that Jews will never defect from the Democratic Party or support for President Obama. Honestly I think Rabbi Yoffie has lost touch with his congregations and his community. While I don’t see a mass defection in 2016, I do think that for the first time in a generation or two there’s daylight for the Republicans to make real inroads in the Jewish community. And the way they do that is by nominating someone from the Center Right who can reach out to Jews and not pull a Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachmann like persona.

I can do conservative these days, I can’t do meshuggah.



Filed under Life