Monday, October 18, 2010

Job Query

This took me most the afternoon and early evening to write.  I'd hope it is effective enough to get in the door and find out more about the job, but at any rate, I figure to publish it here as port of FL 'Acta Diurna' - or 'Daily Acts' - , so as to keep all who are interested informed.

Explain the phrase “work ethic” and describe yours.

On the first, concerning 'work ethic', I'll take a part to whole aspect.  Work, at it's basic means the energy, or labor put into something.  In that sense, one is always doing work, in as much as a person is spending energy to do something, whether at play, in an occupation, or even in the physics of motion or with an object, material, or element acting on another. All that implies 'work' with respect to what energy it takes to employ it, or 'set things into motion'.  

Ethic, in modern usage, it has come to mean principalities and general guidelines of a thing - a body, or entity, to which implies mostly toward businesses, governments, and corporations.  It can, and still means to some extent an individual's autonomy, or ability to self govern.  From it's origins in the Greek of 'ethikos', it simply meant something that 'arises from habit', or a custom, and was considered an art, or an excellence. It referred to a human's ability to do a thing, and to do it well. That is the quality, or nature of 'art', the ethic was becoming accustomed to doing that art and essentially getting to a point to be able to do that art consistently and in good quality.

Thus, to me, a good work ethic means that one is not only spending energy doing something, but consistent in doing a thing, and does it in good quality and principality, while always striving to raise the bar in the excellence of doing that thing.  Or, more simply put - to be persistent, to work hard, and to strive always to do better than before.

Describe a difficult time you have had dealing with an employee, customer, or co-worker. Why was it difficult? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?

About the most difficult time I have had with the jobs I've had was in making cold calls.  A lot of them, in about 10 seconds of hearing a company's pitch to them are ready to say 'no', or 'not interested'.  And those are the one's kind enough to not hang up.  There's very little you can do, other than to acknowledge and move on.  If you can ask them 'I'm sorry, but what is it you're not interested in?'  And get a response other than the click on their end as they hang up, then there is the possibility to start a dialogue and see if they really aren't interested, or if it was the usual impulse to say no, which is ingrained in the majority of people that one would call on cold calls.  They are generally non-responders, possibly got something in the mail about the information, but hadn't gotten around to figuring out what it was in the first place, let alone if it is something of interest.  So, as the one calling, you have a short amount of time to jog their memory, or move on to see if you can interest them in at least talking about it, and hopefully setting up an appointment so you can sit down and continue the conversation, with maybe the end result being to sell them something, or at the very least potentially leave them better informed.

When I worked on acknowledging and moving on, and the better prepared I became in taking calls, the more often I was able to get a 'yes' on the other end, and the more I was able to have an opportunity to continue the conversation.  If I could do more, it would be to be able to have had more preparation and information to work with when making the cold calls.  Knowledge is power, most definitely, and the more informative you can be on the phones, the more responsive the person on the other end is to listen and take you seriously.

To you, which is more desirable: A business that is run in an efficient business-like manner OR a business that is run in a personal and friendly way?

Both have their merit.  That can't be denied.  Both can be efficient.  That can't be denied either.  Derided? Yes, but not denied.  Wall-Mart used to be derided for employing the corporate family model, and yet they are near the top in their industry.  The question instead seems more on the level of what should be the customs of a business - should it be professional or familial?

Personally, I could go with either one.  With substitute teaching, even when I was taking classes toward getting certified, I was told everything from 'don't smile on the first day' and 'don't try to be their best friend,' to 'you have to establish a relationship with the children' and 'you have to get down to their level and understand them first.'  Are these statements contrary to each other?  Yes and no.  Yes because the former are saying, essentially, 'be professional', and the latter are saying, basically, 'treat them like family.'  On the other hand, they are both trying to create a model for establishing a relationship with the client, who in teaching happens to directly be the children in the classroom. And, on one hand, some children do want to see their teacher as their friend, or like a father or mother figure.  On the other hand, some children want you to be a voice of authority, to push them and help them come to better themselves in their scholastics and overall shaping of their human character - to prepare them for the adult world as best you can and at the level allowed for that particular age and grade they are in. 

Adults, and those entering into their adulthood are not terribly dissimilar.  And no matter what age, there is still room for improvement.  There is still a necessity to try and press forward, to keep moving the energy, to move forward and find the next plateau, and continue to strive for that excellence of one's work.  Whether that improvement can be found in a more professional or familial environment is often personal choice.  And when groups of like-minded come together, that choice becomes company preference - the custom, or ethic whereby the principles have their origins and are set.

I like a professional environment.  I can work in a familial environment as well.  Both are possible, but if I had to choose, I like a professional environment to work in.    

What would you have liked to do more of in your last position? What held you back?

Well, I would have liked to have sold an insurance policy, or quite a few, since the work was straight commission.  And that the wages were based on straight commission was a prime factor in what held me back.  After finishing up my duties to the 2010 Census, I started a week long business class, which was about $120.  The testing, overall, cost me about as much. And, of course, licensing fees and other fees for getting appointed to the company I was looking to work for.  I can't complain too much about this, because I agreed to it.  Hindsight is always 20-20, and it took me about three weeks to realize that selling insurance wasn't my niche.  It was primarily the aspect of putting more money into trying to start it up and contrasting that to what money is being paid out.  When I resigned, they tried to call me back, but I declined because it just wasn't cost effective to continue to try and do business when I'm not even breaking even on the deal.  If I got an hourly wage for the time spent making cold calls and got mileage covered, like I did with work at the Census (about $0.50 per mile), I would have been more inclined to continue.  But, I took a gamble and found that it didn't pay out as I would have liked.  So, for now, having something that is a steady, hourly wage, where I know I'm getting paid for the work I put in day in and day out looks much more desirable.

Why have you applied for this position?

Not to sound arrogant, but the most basic response is because I can do it.  I wouldn't apply for a job if I didn't think I could.  Granted, some jobs don't show to be a right fit and don't work out, but that doesn't mean I didn't have the ability to do them.  With regards to requirements, I have a Liberal Arts Bachelor's of Arts degree in Humanities.  I have had experience in both sales/telemarketing, as well as retail.  But of my experiences, I consider the top three most valuable of them being from substitute teaching, service learning work as an AmeriCorps member, and the more current work I did, both in the clerical and courrier operations that the 2010 Census gave opportunity for me to do.  

Substitute teaching was the ground work, and laid the foundation for the beginnings of my work ethic.  Taking calls and managing my weeks with regard to what appointments I could keep for coming in to teach classes on a variety of subjects to a diverse population of students in two local school districts.  I had initially looked for it to be my preparation for going into full time teaching, and thus much of my income went into working towards a Masters in Teaching.  However, time restraints and the economics of putting most money into tuition was taking its toll both in finances and with family situation, as I was living with my parents then so I wouldn't have to put in the additional cost of rent and other needs of daily living into the mix of essentials.  However, that did take from personal autonomy, to which I credit AmeriCorps for the second phase in my personal development.

Even though with AmeriCorps, I did take quite a pay cut, as their stipend was about $875 a month then, the benefits were that I was living in an apartment, and I was doing more things to develop both in team work and personal autonomy and responsibility.  To say that giving a year to service leaning as an AmeriCorps member was a sacrifice of both time and money is not an overstatement.  Yet what I gained was day in and day out experience in working with children as a tutor and role model in the local elementary schools.  Not only did I aid them in-class, but also through running a library homework club.  I also helped the teachers and staff in general by providing assistance with after school activities, such as  supervising students during parent nights, helping with hands on activities during science fairs, and even in the operation of a literature contest that was annual and incorporated the majority of elementary schools in the district.  I also was in the committee for Advertising for the Winter Literacy Project, as well as in the Posters Committee that coincided with of the Spring Literacy Project. Both committees had me working on press releases that I had to send out to various media, and both Literacy Projects I was required to help produce and participate in as part of the volunteer requirements of Regional Service Corps. These were no small tasks and required much professionalism to do well. It was also an operation by which we worked in collaboration with the Richland and the branches of the Libraries. 
Census 2010 brought me further into a business ethic.  I started out there under administration.  It was mainly personnel and payroll, to which my main functions were with the checks and balances of auditing and data entry of personal and private information.  I even processed hiring, and did some payroll.  Other clerical duties were auditing and quality control on what came in from the field, to which later led to me taking a route by which I had the dual responsibility of taking things out to the field and bringing things in.  All of which is classified, and I am not allowed to speak on the sensitive materials due to the contract of my appointment with the 2010 Census.  That, to me, gave the work a certain amount of importance, and I will always look at that period of time as a great service to my country, which incidentally had a decent payout overall as a bonus.

What skill set do you think you would bring to this position?

I would say the organizational and adaptive skills that began with substitute teaching, and followed me into AmeriCorps, as well as into the Census work.  To be able to take calls, make and set appointments, and to be able to assess situations quickly and efficiently, so that things can run smoothly and be set into motion. While I can be cool and calm, I also want to be able to see and feel the energy, and promote the positive of that energy to inspire the confidence and assurance needed to make sure the job is done, and done well, with always looking for areas to improve.

Tell me about your present or last job. Why did you choose it? Why did you/do you want to leave?

I already went into that somewhat, save for why I chose it.  Initially, I looked at it as continuing on in trying to serve people and help them to see the benefits of life and health insurance, particularly with regards to long term care.  For many, long term care is considered like a death sentence, when really it is not.  Its basic importance is helping with the activities of daily living - things of which even heath insurance, whether straight private or the combination of Medicare and Medigap policies do not cover.  Their importance is in helping assist the policy holder in being able to pay for long term care, whether it be going to a nursing home, assisted living, or in-home care.  Many will reply that they will let their spouse of children cover that.  And, as noble as it might be, the realities can be that neither spouse nor child will be able to do so, whether financially, or by the facts of spouse having died or child moving away and having their own family and work to tend to.  Long term care would be a way to help cover for these things when the other options are not feasible, or simply are not there.  Thus, if I could help someone to be able to get into such policies, I would have felt I did them a good service by helping them plan for their future.

However, the business of doing so just wasn't feasible for me to pursue further without becoming a financial burden to me.  And it just doesn't make sense to try and assess others assets when my own need to be put into order.  Therefore, I am looking for employment that has a steady wage to which gains opportunity for both financial and personal growth.

What was your primary contribution/achievement? Biggest challenge?

Overall contribution or achievement, I would say would still be in the area of education.  AmeriCorps and substitute teaching have been more direct in this area, and I still feel the contributions anyone can make towards education are among the greatest anyone can make.  To teach, or at least pass down, not just knowledge, but show by example and experience is at the core of the foundation of the human experience and how we come to react and interact with one another as human beings.

But that too is the biggest challenge.  Modern media itself understands this as recent shifts in technology lead to changes in how media is produced and how it flows out into the world.  There's not just the world wide web and social networking, but metaverses in which people interact with each other.  But even so, even as the online world tries to make this world even smaller and remove geographical boundaries, there is still importance in staying in touch with one's local, physical community.  And one of the most prime resources for that is the local newspaper.  Where else can one get the most up to date information on the happenings in one's community than by opening up and reading a local newspaper?  You want to know what's going in in the cities?  The newspaper is still the local hub of the community. Sure, you can find websites for local groups and organizations, but where do you find out that these places exist if not by reading about them in the paper?  People of all ages can benefit from reading the local newspaper, and the value is immeasurable for local businesses and organizations to get the word out about their events and how to get in contact with them. Yet, with the rise of online media, the challenge comes in reminding people that the local paper still holds value to them in the physical world around them.

In what areas would you like to develop further? What are your plans to do that?

I want to continue to improve my people skills.  While this response back may show my writing abilities, being able to type is only one aspect to communication.  To hold a conversation 'in real time', as it is sometimes called, is vital and something I want to improve upon.  That's probably most important, is to be able to continue the conversation.

Initial plan is to, hopefully, meet face to face and discuss more on the finer details of what the duties of District Sales Manager will be beyond just filling a position.  To learn what is the geography of the assigned territories - who my client base would be, as well as the pool of potential employment that I would be working from for recruiting and contracting.  And certainly, what software I might be required to work with in regards to the bookkeeping and other business and organizational operations of the job.  I don't mind working mornings.  In fact, an early start in the day is preferable as I find it helps push a person to be more productive.

Describe for me a time when you have come across questionable business practices; how did you handle the situation?

Not to get into details, but I did find a few questionable business practices in my last job in insurance.  While I couldn't say whether they were anything illegal or anything, they didn't feel very professional, and professionalism was one of the draws for why I inquired upon joining the business in the first place.  Basically, it felt like corners were being cut, and certain training was being hastened, expediting relatively new employees in a manner that seemed detrimental to their apprenticeship in the business.  And, with three of us relatively newcomers all resigning over the same weekend, that should have been a wake up call that something is not working.  I can only hope that the branch manager comes to understand this and works on improving upon this area, as it undermines the service if you don't train your new employees properly.  Cutting those corners in the beginning is like chipping away at the foundation.  So thus, I resigned to look for a better job opportunity while still keeping a reasonable amount of my finances in order for this undertaking.

Tell me anything else you would like us to know about you that will aid us in making our decision.

Well, I wanted to keep this relatively brief, and I feel I have been thus far candid enough.  So, really, I'd like to know more about you, and continue this conversation face to face as soon at time allows. And I do thank you for your time in reading this not-so-brief response back to your query.  If anything, I hope my writing does not come off terribly arrogant, and provides greater confidence in my skills, abilities, and desires to provide the quality, and professionalism that is sought for and demanded of a District Sales Manager.

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