Tag Archives: travel

Asking Questions


I’ve always been the quiet one—the one who stands on the sidelines, the one who goes with the flow, and most importantly the one who doesn’t ask questions.  For a long time this stance on life has treated me well, and kept me out of trouble.

But ever since I spent two months travelling around the backwoods of Arizona with a group of people – unafraid to ask for anything and everything – I’ve considered altering my quiet persona.

From mid-March to mid-May of this past year I was on assignment working for Arizona State Parks. I was traveling in a fifteen-passenger van packed with everything from trail tools to camping supplies; plus enough clothing and personal gear to keep eleven people functioning and happy no matter what the trip threw at us. Our weather conditions varied from hundred degree work days to twenty degree frost-covered mornings as we travelled through ten different state parks in the Arizona park system. The work, the travel, and the stress were a rollercoaster worthy of even the most dedicated thrill seeker.

But the ten people riding along with me were of an indomitable spirit. They took what could have been a very rough experience for all of us and made the two month project an amazing and unforgettable journey, all through the cunning use of questions.

“Can I have that?”

“Can we have some?”

Unabashedly, my co-workers used these phrases and other like them to get us an overwhelming collection of free stuff. From t-shirts to food, to walking sticks, to hats; if our travelling van hadn’t seemed laden down when we started, it certainly was bulging at the seams when we returned. Every new location provided new opportunities to my ambitious team. And it didn’t stop at the stuff.

The questions branched into “Are we allowed to…?” and “Can you show us?” which opened the door to tours and plane rides and undisclosed hiking trails, all of which we happily explored to our hearts content. Once they got people talking, the folks we encountered were always happy to point us in the direction of fun and exploration. It seemed like we were trading our service time for insider secrets on the best places to see and visit in the small towns surrounding the parks we worked in.

The last set of questions I heard with regularity surprised me every time. “What’s your story?” and “Will you teach us?” No matter how many new characters we met during our travels, my team never seemed to lose interest in the stories. We’d sit and listen or explain what we were doing in the parks, ever content so long as the exchange of information continued, the questions flowing. They laughed, they learned, and they weren’t afraid to reap the rewards gained through their never ending litany of questions.

At the time my appreciation for their questions was limited, my predominant reaction being annoyance. The stream was really never-ending. But with the proper distance and reflection, I’ve come around. Present-day-job-searching-me is now reconsidering the potential of this seemingly inconsequential communication device.

The question, in all its shapes and forms, is a very important and somewhat underrated networking tool. Its many uses can include promoting conversation, opening doors, projecting interest and curiosity, making connections. I have been trying to employ it more and more in my daily life.

Even if a store doesn’t have a ‘now hiring’ sign up it can’t hurt to ask, right? Maybe they haven’t had the chance to put an ad out. Maybe they know someone else who is hiring.

From what I’ve gathered about networking (though I’ve never really gotten the hang of it), the idea is to put out feelers. To ask questions that can help me identify connections I was previously unaware of and use those
connections to find the hiring manager in charge of my dream job.  Asking questions helps me to put my foot in the door and let people know that I have arrived. Or at least that I’d like to arrive sometime in the near future.

Now if only there was a guidebook to help me find the right questions…

A Situation Only a Journalist Could Dream Of Part 1


By Bryan Lawver

I have my first graduate class this week, but before I start talking about grad school, I would like to talk about what I did after finishing my undergraduate classes. Not the relentless job hunt, or the angst, but what I did right after graduating; the not-necessarily-productive part. The “this is just for me” part.

There are a lot of opinions floating around about what to do between undergraduate and graduate school. Some people say that you should get a job, or an internship, or spend time honing your craft – whatever it may be.

I went to Iceland.

The plan felt more like it formed around me, rather than I had an authorial hand in it. It started with a tax return, an unexpected call from a sibling, and a fondness for Icelandic rock music, and in the beginning of May 2010, as my classmates were walking across an auditorium in caps and gowns, I was – along with a friend – boarding a jet owned by Icelandair.

Our timing was fortuitous. A volcano beneath Eyjafjallajokull, a glacier seemingly named by a cat walking across a keyboard, erupted that spring. It covering acres of Iceland in ash, and stranded hundred of international travelers; generally making life even more difficult for a lot of people already living in a particularly forbidding landscape.

Okay, fortuitous might not be the right word. In the end it may have been a bit sociopathic. But that’s how it felt to us. I was a writer, and my companion was a photographer. This would be a great chance for us to cover something momentous, something unique; something that might get noticed. We ran the idea by a professor from our school – who was also a contributor for a local newspaper – who said that he would pass it along to his editor.

And then off we went. If this all sounds rushed and ill-planned, that is simply because it was. We went, despite the myriad of ways that we expressed and explained and excused ourselves to friends and family. We had the idea in our heads and we were determined to have fun.

The first thing I noticed about Iceland was that we were about to crash into it.

At least that’s how it looked. We descended slowly, painfully slowly, through what I assumed to be a layer of clouds. I was looking straight down out the window, waiting to break through so that I could see the island from above and watch our approach. What I saw instead, the instant that we broke through, was the ground just feet below us.

I jumped, not even having enough time to register my own fear, and then realized that what we had been passing through was a thick blanket of fog.

The same sheet of gray cotton lay over the countryside in the cab that we took from the airport to Reykjavik, trying to make small talk with our cab driver. He spoke English, but not well. I was disappointed to realize that I could not use him as a source for my article.

Upon arriving in Reykjavik, I was relieved to find that the man’s unfamiliarity with English was not the norm. Nearly everyone under 50, I was later told, spoke English fluently; and I saw evidence of this everywhere. Signs and menus in English, clerks effortlessly switching languages when they realized that my companion and I suffered the mono-lingual handicap. I thought about the imperialism of English, and what this meant for the culture of Iceland – usually isolated from the world by its physical solitude and the inscrutable mindset that seems to pervade island nations. I asked a lot of Icelanders about this, and no one seemed to care much. There has always been Icelandic music and literature and film, and there always will be, I was told.  Some things are expressed better in Icelandic, and they will continue to be.

Damn, I thought, another dead-end topic.

We trudged on, moving from a hostel to the house of a group of students whom we had agreed to stay with. We bounced along, visiting cafes by day and bars by night, having a good time, but always on the lookout for a good subject, a photo opportunity, a striking detail to open my article.

I probably would have gone on this way, perpetually disappointed, if we hadn’t rented a car and driven into the country.

CHECK BACK NEXT TUESDAY FOR PART TWO!

Foot In the Door, Tossed on Your Bum Part 2


By sendmeonmyway101

The novelty of the table lasted only a few moments, and I was soon distracted by the notes scribbled all across the dry erase board. With nothing else to do, I tried to memorize what was on the board, as if I
 ould be quizzed on it, or something.

Finally the HR rep who had originally contacted me stepped into the room with a warm smile. (At this point we will refer to the HR rep as Judy).

Even though I knew I was about to be put under the same tormenting observations as a fish in the aquarium, I felt my jitters instantly recede. We shook hands, Judy and I, and then she took a seat across from me. I glanced down at the long, empty table, took a deep breath, and waited to begin.

Judy explained the 401K and health benefits that the company offered, as well as verifying some of the original information we had discussed over the phone (most of which were not my best answers). This time I was ready. With lines that I had gone over twelve times on the ride in, I expanded on my work history and my understanding of the job with absolute confidence. I could tell when I gave a good answer, because Judy would look down at her notes with a little, knowing smile.

After some time, fifteen minutes or so, she stood and left. I would now meet with three team members who had the job I was applying for. At this point I was relaxed – my back, which had been flush against the gray chair
when Judy first entered, was now slouching somewhat as I leaned over the table. The team members, each warm and friendly, proceeded to ask me questions, fervently scribbling my response. With every answer I wildly flailed my arms, barely noticing I was doing it. I’ve always been a very visual speaker.

When they were finished with their questions, they asked if I had any of my own. For any interview, I try to have at least three questions beforehand. One question that I use at almost every interview I’ve been to is “what are the best and worst parts of the job?” In the past, most interviewers have been caught off guard, but pleased, by the question, and this group was no different. They tried to hide their surprise, before explaining that the initial training was the hardest thing to get over. But after that, it’s like riding a bike.

I had a few more questions. That part of the interview lasted roughly half an hour. They thanked me in the end, and I made sure to get up and shake each hand once more, running over their names in my head.

By the time that the ‘big bosses’ came in, I was completely at ease. Until they started firing questions, that is.

“How would you define teamwork?”

“How are you at learning new things?”

“How do you perceive the responsibilities of this position?”

I did the best I could, spewing the first thing that popped into my head. I would normally stop to think about everything I say beforehand, but the way they were staring at me, like marble statues, made my brain turn to mush and my mouth into that of a child’s. Stream of consciousness, whatever popped into my head came out of my mouth.

The next twenty minutes were a whirlwind, and I can hardly remember much of what happened. Before I knew it they were asking if I had any questions, and I was dumbly saying, “No, I think all my questions have been answered.”

Judy returned, told me they would let me know if I got the job by the end of the next week. Then she led me to the door, and I was done. Just like that.

Dazed, I clambered into my car, started the engine and headed straight for the thruway. I spent the next few hours going over every word in my head, trying to find a weak spot, a failure. I arrived home, napping until my Father arrived.

The next day I sent a thank-you letter, but even as I hit ‘send’ I knew there would be no return call.

Foot in the Door, Tossed On Your Bum Part 1


By sendmenonmyway101

My past few posts haven’t been as hopeful – or helpful – as I had wanted them to be, so today I think I’m going to recount my first ‘real world’ interview. Hope this gives some of you a clear picture!

It was the end of June, and I was surprisingly giddy that morning; even though I had gotten up at 4:30 am to make the three hour drive to Buffalo. I may have downed two whole bottles of 5hr energy by the time I bounced onto the elevator, so I suppose being giddy explains itself. I spent the whole car ride into town going over potential questions, and my best answers. Then I begged the interview gods that I wouldn’t forget them.

I was aware of the interview for a week before hand (after surviving the phone interview), but the only person I had mentioned it to was Kyle. I didn’t want my parents to get their hopes up for me, and then be disappointed when I didn’t get the job. In the end I caved – unable to think of a good enough reason for why I would be getting up at 4am (well, I came up with some pretty good reasons, but I wanted some advice from my Dad, and when I told him he insisted I tell my Mom).

I had gone to bed late the night before – not my best idea, but I was up gathering as much research as possible on the people I would be meeting with. I could tell you who graduated from what university, with what degree, and exactly what their extra-curricular activities were. Creepy, I know (the fact that I was able to find this information so readily, and the fact that I memorized it), but I wanted to be prepared.

I knew I was going to have to step my whole game up a notch, so I dressed in one of the outfits I had bought specifically for post college interviews almost two years ago (fortunately, the pants and shirt still fit – black slacks and a beige blouse).

I was there for an office position where, if I had gotten the job, I would be responsible for handling customers, answering questions about the software, and editing the surveys (it was a survey company. Not exactly my first choice, but I was impressed with what the company aimed to do – forge a bridge between college students and the faculty/staff that affect their education).

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I could feel the vomit building its way back up my intestines. Hell, I could taste the stomach acid burning in the back of my throat.

I swallowed it back as a woman guided me inside. The main work area was small but open. No cubicles. I was deposited into a glass conference room off to the side, and left alone.

Someone had once told me that employers will leave potential employees alone for a few extra moments just to psych them out. With this in mind, I tried focusing my thoughts on anything other than my nerves.

First I tapped my fingers along the counter top, marveling at how small I was in comparison to the bulky, tall table. I wished there was a telephone book or two to prop me up.

The novelty of the table lasted only a few moments, and I was soon distracted by the notes scribbled all across the dry erase board. With nothing else to do, I tried to memorize what was on the board, as if I would be quizzed on it, or something.

Finally the HR rep who had originally contacted me stepped into the room with a warm smile.

READ PART 2 Tomorrow Evening

Updates


It may only be Day Three in our little excursion, but Sauce Off has gotten an impressive start. Here are just a few things you can expect in the coming weeks:

1. A week from today we will introduce our new bloggers
2. We will feature an article from bowski477 of Aesthetically-Pleezin.com, chronicling her online success following graduation
3. College senior KB will update us on her hopes and fears as she prepares to enter her final year
4. We will visit several colleges to see what questions they have for Post Grads
5. Twice a week we will feature a new Post Grad with an internet presence (if you are interested in being featured, please email the link to your blog/website/web show/etc. to sauceoffjournal@gmail.com)

And there will be plenty more. Remember, we’re still looking for guest bloggers, and new articles. (other forms of media will also be considered). Some thing’s we are interested in – recent grads (within the past two years) who are also parents/about to become parents, grads who have successfully navigated the job market, grads attenting grad school, grads engaged, grads who realized they want to do something different than what they obtained their degrees in, unsuccessful journey’s through the job market, students who started college and for one reason or another dropped out, traveling grads, advice from professors and employers, etc.

All submissions must be directed to sauceoffjournal@gmail.com. They may be no longer than 650 words and must be accompanied by a brief (2-3 sentences) summary of the author. People who are not recent Post Grads can still submit articles, so long as material involves Post Grad life in one form or another. And please, don’t be intimidated.

-Chris Bahrens

Sauce Off aims to educate current and future students on life after graduation. If you are worried, excited, or even confused, Sauce Off is here to answer your questions – and remind you that you are not alone.

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