Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Kick-Ass Cover Letter

How to write a kick-ass cover letter, in three easy steps:

Step 1: "You're Great!"
Why yes, flattery WILL get you everywhere! If you really want the job, and you want your resume & cover letter to be weeded out of the stack, start by telling the company exactly why you want the job. Why do you want to work for the company? Sure, the job sounds appealing, but why, specifically? (Aside from, "It's the kind that pays.") Why did you pick this job, of all the ones you looked at today? When reading job descriptions, you start to notice that companies use very specific words and phrases to describe their company, the job opportunity, and the person they're looking for. Things like "passionate" and "rapidly-growing" and "deadline-oriented." It's completely okay to parrot these things back to them. In fact, it's recommended. Show them that you not only read the whole job description, but that you were able to pick up with they were throwing down, and it really blew your skirt up.

PASS:
"Dear Hiring Manager:
My name is SusieWantsajob and I’m currently seeking employment in the marketing profession."

YES, PLEASE:
"Dear Hiring Manager:
I am truly excited to have an opportunity to apply for a position with a young, rapidly-growing agency like Click Communications. I love the idea of being able to join a passionate, hard-working team of fellow movie lovers, and put my experience to work in the dynamic field of home entertainment and online publicity."

Step 2: "I'm Great!"
So many of the cover letters I'm reading start here, and it just gets draining. This is why it's Step 2, not 1. Of course you want to sell yourself, and you only have a few sentences to convince your future employer that you're the bee's knees. Again, however, you need to sell yourself based on the job you want. It's great if you've crafted a nice boiler-plate for yourself that you can insert into every cover letter--after all, job hunting is hard work, and writing hundreds of unique cover letters every day can be a huge bummer. So use the things that are important to you in your template, then customize your letter with highlights of specific things about you that fit nicely with the specific job and company. If you're too vague, you're not selling, you're just bragging--and no one's listening.

PASS:
"I am confident my experience fulfilling directives of various projects related to public relations, marketing and promotions could provide much value and benefit to your team."

YES, PLEASE:
"I am familiar with many different aspects of entertainment and internet publicity. I am highly efficient, and organize my time to complete tasks quickly and accurately. I am also a self-starter and can work very well independently or as a team player."

Step 3: "Wouldn't We Be Great Together?"
You're almost done! You've already established that you're hot for the company and the job, and you've described the things about you that are awesome. Now here's where you outline the potential benefit of hiring you. If it's a young company, talk about your desire and ability to help them grow, and grow with them. If it's an established company, maybe mention the benefits of a fresh perspective on their already-strong team. Again, this is a benefit for the company, not you. People who are hiring already know that you want to further your career in the field of your choice, and grow as a professional. Save it. Instead, think about the reaction you had when you read the job posting, and think about what you told your friends and family. If you said something like, "This would be so perfect because I'd get to do this and this! And I'd be super awesome at helping them with this!" Well, then, your Step 3 is already written.

PASS:
I don't have a bad example of this because MOST PEOPLE SKIP IT.

YES, PLEASE:
"I am confident that my experience as a writer and a promotions intern would be a great fit in your growing company, and I am eager to contribute to your organization's success."

So that's it: You're Great + I'm Great + Wouldn't We Be Great Together? = A Kick-Ass Cover Letter = "Hello, Susie. This is Dinah from Click. I'd like to set up a time to discuss your resume further."

Considering how many people don't do this, I kind of can't believe I'm giving away this advice for free. The funny thing about all this is that, to me, this advice is old news. My dad gave me this advice when I wrote my very first cover letter. I must have been a teenager at the time, maybe? But it's stuck with me all these years BECAUSE IT WORKS. If nothing else, going through this process will help tell you if you are, in fact, applying for the Right Job, or just A Job. If it's just A Job, hey--you don't have to do any of this, and maybe people will be blown away by your resume and call you anyway. Or maybe they'll realize that it's just A Job to you, and move your resume to the recycling file. If it's the Right Job, though, then this should be easy.

(p.s. No, to Anonymous in the Comments and anyone else who finds this, I will NOT review your cover letter for you unless we are extremely close family or friends. In which case you have my email. And honestly, maybe not even then. Didn't you gather from all this that I am Very Busy and Important with a small business to run?)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I give up.

I don't know how many times I have to go through this.

First, there was a rant. Then there was another rant. Then I was like, this can't keep going on. I need to make peace with this. I mean, it's just a name. I've screwed up other people's names before. Usually they're unusual, or we're at a loud party or something, but still. It happens. It would probably be better for me if I didn't let it bother me so much. I decided life would be happier with more of a Zen approach.

But not today. Here's why.

I ordered this book from a re-seller on Amazon. It's called, "Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah," by Dinah Shore. Isn't it darling?
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It's also called, "Someone's in the Kitchen with DINAH," by DINAH Shore. Ordered by a woman who, coincidentally, is named DINAH.

AND YET.
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Oh, COME. ON. There are two--TWO--accurate spellings of my name RIGHT ON THE COVER OF THE VERY BOOK YOU ARE MAILING.

SERIOUSLY?! SERIOUSLY?!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I give up.

Friday, October 26, 2007

pumpkins

I feel like I could collapse at any moment, I'm so tired. Stupid allergies. Stupid fires. (Clearly, the petulant phase of feeling sickly is in full effect.)

Let's talk Halloween instead. I don't have a costume or costume idea for all the parties tomorrow night. Our house isn't decorated even a little, which is a shame because Mac and I have a huge collection of awesome Halloween decorations. It's all happening during this exceptionally busy time, and it's been hard to get into the spirit.

What we do have, however, is pumpkins.
Spooky Scary!

These are the results of a little pumpkin-carving party on Wednesday. I did the Jack Skellington & Spider pumpkins, which means they're sitting on our front porch right now.

So there's that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

We're all affected

So, yeah. Fires.

They're happening in multiple counties all over Southern California.
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They're consuming wilderness, displacing wildlife, and taking homes of the rich and poor alike. They are brutal and scary. Most of the people in my immediate circle are affected in some way, even if only because they know someone who's affected in a scarier way, which is basically to say: We're all affected. We're all scared. We're all worried about those we know and love, and those we don't. Even those lucky enough not to have anyone personal to worry about, who are just watching the fires at a distance, are, like all of us, breathing pretty much the worst air quality imaginable. Los Angeles' famous smog has gone from merely gross to downright ominous.

What's killing me with this at the moment, though, is the reporting and commentary on the fires, by news stations, web sites, bloggers, you name it. I mean, uncontrollable wildfires are still scary, right? People losing their homes and all of their possessions is still tragic, right? Because it seems to me like there's a whole lot of opportunistic shenanigans afoot. Far too many people are seizing these fires as a chance to:

1. Criticize the rich & famous! Because, surely, if this is all the news is covering, they're the only ones affected. But you know, those celebs feel like they can build their fancy houses everywhere, they deserve to have their homes burn to the ground. Really, these wildfires are an appropriate measure of schadenfreude for all those people I can't quit reading about in US Weekly.

2. Kick Californians when they're down! Because we are SO STUPID to live in a place with earthquakes and fires. We should all flee California and move to a safer part of the country. Where we'd only have to worry about tornados. Or floods. Or hurricanes. Or blizzards. Or...

3. Advance our political agendas! Because clearly, these fires are punishment for those liberal, fornicating Hollywood Democrats. Except when they're no less than those rich Republicans in San Diego deserve.

4. Be superior! "Oh my GOD I CAN'T BELIEVE people are bitching about losing their Elvis Memorabilia when people in New Orleans lost their ENTIRE LIVELIHOODS because of Hurricane Katrina. I mean, I live in New York, so I'm not personally affected by either of these tragedies? But I am FULLY QUALIFIED to compare these two completely different natural disasters, boil down the affect of each based solely on what I see in the news, and judge people for feeling loss in completely different ways."

A quick Google and you'll find a myriad of examples of all of these things. It's disgusting.

The truth of the matter is simple: Fire doesn't discriminate against rich or poor, Californian or Texan, Democrat or Republican. Fire doesn't care if you're part of the famous elite, or part of the team that cleans their houses. Fire just consumes and destroys, and leaves pounds of ash in the air as it moves. It's frustrating that it even needs to be said, but seriously: the only appropriate reaction at this point is to pray, help out wherever we can, and wait until the fires have died and the air has cleared so we can all, literally, breathe easier.

"Where did you get that darling thing?"

I find I have a hard time putting a finger on my style. Is it California casual chic? Or does it adhere more to Seattle's "rock 'n roll professional" aesthetic? Certainly my draw to boots, chunky belts and stylish coats is a holdover from my Colorado days. Or is it regional at all?

Whatever it is, I've been having fun shopping lately. Color is back! I remember roaming into stores over the last couple years thinking, "Beige and gray? Are they serious? I'm an autumn, dammit!!" But now, man, you roll into these joints and they're all Red! Royal blue! Emerald Green! Mustard Yellow! Rich earthy colors and jewel tones as far as your wallet will take you! Hurrah!

More than clothes, though, I love accessories. I found a shop that carries really cute shoes in wide sizes, as well as an affordable shoe repair shop near my house, so I'm finally getting excited about shoes. My collection of beautiful necklaces & pendants is an abundance of pretty, and I love dressing up coats and jackets with a fun brooch.

The whole reason for this post, though, is that I have two items that never fail to draw compliments and get people asking, "Where did you get that darling thing?" And since I do not fancy myself too original to copy, I'll just tell you.

1. The Pretty Silver Necklace: I can not take credit for picking this out, as it was a birthday present from my friend Erica. Her taste in clothes is almost exactly like mine (only better), and her taste in jewelry is impeccable. Anyway, this necklace is absolutely beautiful, and never fails to receive compliments.
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Where to find it: On Robson St. in Vancouver, if you're lucky enough to go, at a store called Blue Ruby. They also have a website. Go through the Mimi & Marge collection until you find the "Soda Dot Necklace." There are also matching earrings and a matching cuff if you're into the matchy-chatchy thing.

2. The Groovy Printed Clutch: I found this prize in Austin, at a store that specializes in Austin designers. When I got home, people kind of freaked out over its retro-like fabric and clever design. I mean, I went to get my teeth cleaned, and even the front desk staff and my hygenist were all, "Oooh, so cute! Want!"
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Where to find it: the Kailo Chic web site. The name of my purse is "The Mocca," but you can find it in a whole variety of cute, vintage-y fabrics. The real draw with this clutch is the little strap on the side that you slip your hand through to help hold onto the bag.

So, there you go, the two most-complimented components of my wardrobe, available for appropriation at reasonable prices. Plus, now you have a couple sites to bookmark for the women in your life who appreciate artistic, well-made things.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

41 songs

I've been a bit of a musical slut lately. I hear something pretty/cool/dancey/rockin and the next thing I know my iTunes account is totally depleted and I've got all these new songs. I haven't posted a Mix of the Month in a long time, but I also haven't been doing monthly theme mixes in the last year either. What I have been doing is customizing mixes for my family & friends out of the 41 songs you see below.

Note: Many thanks to Amanda, Eyad, Megan, Conrad, Amy, Mikey and Mac. This mix would be a lot shorter, and a lot less cool, without all of your contributions.

  1. See You at the Lights, 1990s - From the album Cookie, which I Totally Recommend. Happy guitar rock. Good times.
  2. D is for Dangerous, Arctic Monkeys - These kids are getting better, this song in particular.
  3. Trophy, Bat for Lashes - I JUST discovered Bat for Lashes a couple weeks ago in Seattle. They're moody, haunting, and feature floaty girl vocals over percussive bass & drums. SIGN ME UP!
  4. Fucking Boyfriend, The Bird and the Bee - A side project of Inara George, The Bird & the Bee are a little more electronic. This song is hilarious and awesome.
  5. Earth Intruders, Bjork - Hi, B's using FRENCH HORNS now, in addition to everything else. Because she rules.
  6. Sunday, Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City is SO GOOD, y'all, I recommend the whole album. Actually I recommend everything Bloc Party--their drummer is sick, they're awesome live, they're delicious, danceable Brit Pop at its best. This song stays in heavy rotation 'cause I'm a sucker for lyrics like, "Giant proclamations are all very well, but our love is louder than words." Swoon!
  7. Silently, Blonde Redhead - My favorite track from 23, their most recent album. The whole album is rad, but I want to HUG this song, it's so sweet.
  8. The Long List of Girls, The Blow - Amanda turned me on to The Blow, and they do so many cool, interesting things. Here, they've got drum corps percussion making asses everywhere shake happily, while singing, nonchalantly, "Guess I'm on the long list of girls who love the shit out of you."
  9. If Looks Could Kill, Camera Obscura - This song is like crack to me. All my favorite elements are here: heavy drums, strong bass line, sweet girly vocals, AND it's reminiscent of a 60's motown girl-group song.
  10. To Build A Home, The Cinematic Orchestra - This is that pretty rolling piano anthem you're hearing everywhere that sounds like Coldplay, but isn't.
  11. Let the Drummer Kick, Citizen Cope - A So You Think You Can Dance discovery, I love this song's ability to lure me into a laid-back trance of cool.
  12. Bulldozer, Datarock - A birthday present from my friend Conrad, I like the way the drums on this press urgently forward, like a train. I hear the rest of the Datarock album is great, but I haven't heard it yet.
  13. The Crane Wife Pt. 3, The Decemberists - I wouldn't call myself a Decemberists fan, per se, but I AM a fan of big, swelling (heh. That's what SHE said) anthems. ANTHEMS. Ahem. Seriously, though, this song is all strummy and pretty and, for CD-mixing types, a great way to end a mix.
  14. Society, Eddie Vedder - From the Into the Wild soundtrack, it's all jangly acoustic guitars and Eddie's signature deep, sexy voice. Yes, please.
  15. Drunk and Stoned, Faux Jean - Faux Jean is a Minnesota bar band my sister Amy introduced me to when I told her how much I love male/female duets. This song is powerful, sweet, funny, and totally rockin'.
  16. Bang Bang to the Rock 'n' Roll, Gabin - Another SYTYCD find, this updated mambo track makes me dance, plain & simple.
  17. Tell Me Where It Hurts, Garbage - Who loves Garbage with all her heart? And big, orchestral numbers? And plaintive, touching vocals about friendship and love? Dinah, that's who. So this one pretty much makes me happy without hardly trying.
  18. Buddha's Delight, Haley Bennett - Okay: If you haven't seen Music & Lyrics yet, go rent it. Nay, BUY IT. If, that is, you can appreciate 80's throw-back numbers, would be delighted by a "POP!" video that's reminiscent of Roxette and Wham, or would be as stunned as me to realize that all the jokey modern pop songs, like this one, that were written to mock every other pop starlet out there, are actually kind of awesome, danceable, addictive tracks.
  19. Fools In Love, Inara George - I heart Inara George. On a cold, gray, miserable day, she is my warm blankie, my bunny slippers, my chamomile tea. This song was a present from the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack, and it's just one of the prettiest songs ever made.
  20. The Way I Am, Ingrid Michaelson - Yeah, it's that Old Navy commercial song. Shut up. I like it.
  21. Real Life, Joan As Policewoman - I discovered Joan as Policewoman last fall in Australia, in this little record bar. I was standing in line waiting to settle up the bill, and found myself rocking on the balls of my feet, totally sucked in my the simple piano and vocals of this slow, deliberate, and dreamy song.
  22. Weekend Without Makeup, The Long Blondes - I recently picked up the Long Blondes album "Someone to Drive You Home," and it's great. If you like Girl Rock (The Donnas, The Blackhearts, etc) then you like The Long Blondes. The lyrics on this particular track tell a story many women can relate to, and they're written & sung in such a way you an almost hear the punctuation. And you know I love that, comma, sweetie.
  23. Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks, Los Campesinos - This is a great strummy alt-rock song (with violins! yay!). I think mostly, though, I just like the expression "Sweet Cheeks."
  24. Valerie, Mark Ronson, feat. Amy Winehouse - I've had a ton of different people ask me my opinion on Miss Amy, and here it is: I heartily disapprove of her lifestyle and her attitude towards getting help for an obvious drug addiction. Her immaturity is as grating as joints in a skeleton with no muscle or fat to cushion them. That said, I have to admit the girl can sing. And this song is darling, so. I listen to it. A lot.
  25. The Libertine, Patrick Wolf - Patrick Wolf is this 23-year-old British dude that all the hipsters like. I've tried out a handful of his songs on some friends' recommendations, and been kind of underwhelmed. With this one very distinct exception. The Libertine is a find, a treasure, an exciting musical journey with violins that wail like the wind in a storm, and trotting horses on percussion. It's one of those songs that you hear for the first time and you're like, "...What? Wait, play it again!" And then suddenly you've listened to it, like, 43,652 times in one sitting.
  26. Young Folks, Peter Bjorn and John - This is that song you've heard all over the damn place, with the catchy drums and the whistling. The one that gets stuck in your head for a week until finally you're like, Fine! I'll buy it on iTunes and listen to it repeatedly! YOU WIN, PETER BJORN AND JOHN. At least, that's what happened to me.
  27. Hey There Delilah, Plain White T's - Oh, strummy, heartfelt pop songs. It really doesn't matter how overplayed you are, you're just so, so pretty.
  28. Pieces Of The People We Love, The Rapture - Mac found this track several months ago, but I keep putting it on mixes & playlists because I like the strong backbeat, and I love me some backup vocals that sound like they could be sung by Muppets (see: Hard-Fi, Kaiser Chiefs).
  29. Ain't Nothing Wrong With That, Robert Randolph & The Family Band - As Mikey once said, this one is a Powerhouse. I like to open mixes with this track, so the first beat just knocks you square in the chest, and makes you pay attention: "This is not background music, friend. Now get up and DANCE."
  30. Release The Stars, Rufus Wainwright - This beautiful track swells and sways and makes me want to don a strapless frock and slow dance under paper streamers and a balloon arch in the high school gym.
  31. I Don't Feel Like Dancin', Scissor Sisters - But I DO! I DO feel like dancing! Oh, you cheeky Scissory Sisters.
  32. Australia , The Shins - The Shins' most recent album is great, but I latched onto this happy track because it's called Australia, I think. What? It was a great trip, even if it was a year ago.
  33. One Mile Below, Siouxsie - ATTENTION FRIENDS: Siouxsie Sioux has a new album, Mantaray, and it is AWESOME. Yeah. Go get it. Of course, I choose this track for my mix because it's the one with the... you guessed it! Really heavy drums and floaty vocals. Because I'm predictable in what turns my musical crank. What can I say? I know what I like, and so, evidently, does Siouxsie. Rawr.
  34. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb, Spoon - Spoon's new album, Ga Ga Ga Ga (seriously), is really good, and this is just kind of a classic, perfect alt-pop song.
  35. Punkrocker, Teddybears, feat. Iggy Pop - "Cause I'm a punkrocker, yes I am." I like how this song's lyrics sound kind of insecure, while the song itself rocks. It's a musical paradox, and a damn good time.
  36. Oh Timbaland, Timbaland - I like Timbaland's new album, and appreciate the repetitive (if totally overplayed) "The Way I Are" for motivating my lazy ass on the treadmill. That said, this is the best track on the album. It samples Nina Simone's "Sinner Man," only in the most badass possible way.
  37. Body And Soul, Tori Amos - I know a lot of Tori fans. Traditionally, I'm not one. I mean, I like her fine, but I don't LOVE her or anything. I do LOVE this song, however. It's all heavy piano and striptease beats and sexy as hell.
  38. Here It Comes Again, Tracey Thorn - More dreamy, floaty girl vocals. I can't help myself. This one's like a bubble bath followed up with a big, fluffy towel right out of the dryer.
  39. In The Clouds, Under The Influence Of Giants - This song challenges my commitment to perfect the song order on every mix I make, because it's a hard-hitting disco number that just smacks you in the face on the first note. Tricky, but totally worth it.
  40. (I'd Search) The Whole Wide World, Wreckless Eric - My friend Eyad put this on a mix of love songs for his fiance Amanda, then left it at our house by accident after we hosted her birthday party here. So I listened to the mix (I couldn't help it, E makes really awesome CDs), and heard this song, and was like, "Aw!" And then I imported all the songs so I could return the CD and still listen to it whenever I want.
  41. Down Boy, Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Finally, we end with Y, and I don't know if it's because it's fall, or if it's indicative of my overall mood, or what, but it's another moody, sexy number featuring sexy beats and warbling female vocals. So good, though! I have a bunch of tracks from the YYY's latest album, actually, and they're all kind of awesome. This one's a definite favorite, though.
Now, your turn. What are you listening to right now? GO!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

soup, clogs, kittens or politics

I have an RSS Feed!

I've been asked about this by a couple different readers, and I finally figured it out. I've only had this blog for, what, 3 years? Yeah, hi. GENIUS.

Anyhoo, if you check back here from time to time, and find the feast/famine style of posting is bumming you out, and you just wish you could be notified when I finally get off my lazy butt to post my brilliant musings on soup, clogs, kittens or politics (ha!), then this RSS feed is for you! Just click the orange button in the upper right corner, above my picture, then you'll get all kinds of feed options. It gets a little complicated from there, but I'm hoping that those of you who WANTED the RSS option can sort it out.

If you're still confused, and honestly, I am a little, then just sit tight until someone more blog-smart than I explains to me how to simplify this whole RSS thing, at which time I'll be more than happy to pass it along.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

all kinds of thoughtful

Tomorrow morning we're flying to Seattle for 7 days, the longest trip we've taken there since we moved away in 2003. I find this trip has me all kinds of thoughtful--about the people we've kept in touch with, about the people we haven't kept in touch with but are hoping to see anyway, about all the changes our lives have gone through in 4 years (marriages, divorces, kids, houses, dogs, new businesses, etc etc etc) and all the changes Seattle's gone through during the same time. I don't know how it's going to be, but these two things I know for sure:

1. We're going to eat at some of the best damn restaurants in the country.

2.
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I am NOT packing my new suede shoes.