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Are You An Unhappy Rat?

Is being "ambitious" with respect to one's career akin to being perpetually unhappy?  I think it is, at least to some degree.

We all want the promotion.
We all want the next level or title.
We all want recognition for our hard work.
We all want the bonus we deserve.
We all want a BlackBerry.

To do all this,

We put in the extra hours in the office.
We sacrifice our personal life.
We are constantly in touch via our BlackBerry.
We take courses we have no real interest in.
We play office politics (whether intentionally or subconsciously).

We don't like it,

When we are passed off for promotion.
When we are a victim of office politics.
When we don't get credit for our work or others get it.
When we don't get the rating that we deserve on our Performance Appraisal.
When we don't get the raise that we wanted.

What does all this mean?  It means the rats in the Rat Race are unhappy or at least unsatisfied for one reason or another.

I think one way to be happier (not necessarily happy) is to work for yourself (i.e start your own business) or simply work for money (i.e. be an independent contractor/consultant).

The latter seems to be working for me, at least for the time being.

Happiness is a state of mind and being happy is really up to you.

My "New" Lenovo Laptop

Dear Readers,

On December 27th, I purchased a Lenovo IdeaPad Y550.  On the same day I received the following message:

Thank you for your purchase from Lenovo. Your order has been received and is processed.

On January 10th, I received the following message:

Dear valued Lenovo customer,

We thank you for your recent IdeaPad Y550 purchase. Due to the overwhelming popularity of our Boxing Day promotion, we were forced to move production of your order to our manufacturer in China. This change has caused a slight delay in shipping. Your order is now scheduled to ship on or before January 14th 2010. We will send you an email once the order has shipped.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.


Lenovo Customer Service

On January 15th, I received the following message:

Dear Valued Lenovo Customer,

We wanted to provide you an update on your current Y550 order. Due to an unforeseen part constraint, your order has been delayed. Your order is now scheduled to ship on February 15. We will send you a confirmation email once the order has shipped. After you receive this email please allow 3 business days for UPS to issue a tracking number.  

Please know that we understand your frustration with this process. We apologize, but we will not be able to provide any type of compensation for this delay.

If you need to contact us for further information, please provide your order number.


Lenovo Customer Service

They call me a "Valued Lenovo Customer" and at the same time tell me bluntly there will be no compensation for the almost TWO MONTHS delay that is clearly their fault?  Did I ask for compensation for my "new" laptop that will already be 2 months old when I receive it?

Thanks for the excellent customer service Lenovo!

Dear readers, take note of their service!

5 Things I Did While Searching for a Job in a Recession

Searching for a job in the biggest recession since the Great Depression of 1930's was no mean task.  I did everything possible to get a job after I voluntarily resigned from my very stable job in the Banking industry.  Some people called me a fool, but that was the best thing I ever did.

This was in September 2008.  After that I travelled in India for four months, the highlight being my visit to Baba Amte's Hemalkasa project and a trek to the foot of Mt. Kanchendzonga - world's third highest peak.

I returned from India in late January 2009 and quickly discovered that we were indeed in a recession!  The job market had completely dried up.  There were hiring freezes everywhere.  Even some of my best leads fizzled.  The head-hunters who used to drive me crazy with frequent phone calls and e-mails with job leads were suddenly quiet.  The world was in a deep sleep ... recession.

Interestingly, I did manage to land a couple of interviews in February, however, due to a hiring freeze, one of those interviews led to nothing, and the other one I didn't get the job as I was ill-prepared for it.  I cannot stress the importance of preparing for interviews, as I blew several interviews because of my over-confidence and lack of preparation.

So what did I do?  Aside from networking with people in the industry, I spent a lot of quality time with my niece and newly born nephew.  I also watched a lot of movies.

In April, I started thinking of more travelling.  It didn't take me very long to draw up an adventurous itinerary to Southeast Asia, which included Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Vietnam.  And I was off again - on my own - and returned in July from an eye-opening journey.  The latest trip only fueled my wander lust.  I learned that to travel is to discover everyone is wrong about other countries.  The world's such a beautiful and amazing place.

South America and Africa are next on my list.  I will visit these places while on a World Tour that I have planned in the future...  I love going to new places and experiencing new and different cultures, and meeting people from all walks of life.  But you already knew that, right?

After returing from Southeast Asia, I had to get serious about finding a job.  I did a number of things when searching for a job.  The things that gave me the most positive results will not surprise anyone.

Here are all the things that I did when searching for a job:

    1. Post your resume on job posting sites.
    • 13% of the interviews that I was called for were due to posting my resume online.
    • Recruiters/head-hunters often scour resumes posted here and contact people with job leads.  I got several interviews this way.

    • Most jobs posted here are with agencies.  I mostly didn't apply to these jobs and limited myself to "actual" job postings from companies.
    2. Work with recruiters/head-hunters.
    • 19% of the interviews that I was called for were thanks to head-hunters.
    • I worked with a lot of head-hunters and discovered that some have very good contacts in the industry who can quickly get you an interview, and others who are "all talk".

    • It is to your advantage to work with head-hunters as they are quite resourceful and have many contacts.

    • I had several interviews via head-hunters.
    3. Network with people.
    • 44% of the interviews that I was called for were due to networking with people.
    • I kept in touch with all my colleagues from my previous job.  Everyone who should know I was in the job market, knew I was in the market!

    • I often met people over a cup of coffee or lunch.  The intent was not just to get a job, but to keep in touch.

    • Your ex-colleagues and friends can help you in a number of ways.  For example, I had an interview in February(!) because someone had recommended my name to a head-hunter who had good contacts in the industry.

    • Last month I received a call from one of my high-ranking contacts who literally offered me a job over the phone - however, I had already found something by that time.
    4. Visit a company's "Careers" page and apply online.
    • 25% of the interviews that I was called for were due to applying for jobs independently via a company's corporate website.
    • Since it was not ideal to totally depend on head-hunters to get me interviews, I made a list of all the companies I was interested in working in and visited their corporate website and applied for jobs independently via their Careers page.

    • I expected nothing by applying for jobs in this way as the HR department probably receives thousands of resumes this way and mine would be just "another one".

    • Interestingly though, I ultimately found an "unadvertised" job this way!  My resume was forwarded by HR to a hiring manager who called me for an interview.  The company was looking for an independent contractor to work on a large Risk Management project - and I was the chosen one.  So, a legal contract was signed, and I'm now three months into it.  The position was totally unrelated to the job that I had originally applied for online.  I think I just got lucky.
    5. Create a LinkedIn profile.
    • I had no luck getting any interviews this way.
    • A head-hunter recommended me to do this.

    • Apparently, a lot of recruiters these days are finding candidates this way.
In conclusion, I think it is true that the best jobs are not advertised!

Stock Options

I've just discovered the world of stock options. It's an excellent way to make money in the stock market. My first trade was writing (i.e. selling) a covered call on some shares that I own.

I'm finding that my philosophy regarding the capital markets has also changed. I will write more on that later.

Begin with the end in mind

The following is an excerpt from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey.

In your mind's eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one.  Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out.  As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music.  You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way.  You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.

As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself.  This is your funeral, three years from today.  All these people have come to honour you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand.  These are to be four speakers.  The first is from your family, immediate and also extended - children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend.  The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person.  The third speaker is from your work or profession.  And the fourWth is from your church or some community organization where you've been involved in service.

Now think deeply.  What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life?  What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect?  What kind of son or daughter or cousin?  What kind of friend?  What kind of working associate?

What character would you like them to have seen in you?  What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember?  Look carefully at the people around you.  What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

What it means to "begin with the end in mind"

The most fundamental application of "begin with the end in mind" is to begin today with the image, picture, or paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference or the criterion by which everything else is examined.  Each part of your life - today's behaviour, tomorrow's behaviour, next week's behaviour, next month's behaviour - can be exhamined in the context of the whole, of what really matters most to you.  By keeping that end clearly in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not violate the criteria you have defined as supremely important, and that each day of your life contributes in meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole.

It's incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it's leaning against the wrong wall.  It is possible to be busy - very busy - without being very effective.

People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come at the expense of things they suddenly realize were far more valuable to them.  People from every walk of life - doctors, academicians, actors, politicians, business professionals, athletes, and plumbers - often struggle to achieve a higher income, more recognition or a certain degree of professional competence, only to find that their drive to achieve their goals blinded them to the things that really mattered most and now are gone.

How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage oursleves each day to be and to do what really matters most.  If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.  We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.

If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.  It may be very different from the definition you thought you had in mind.  Perhaps fame, achievement, money, or some of the other things we strive for are not even part of the right wall.

When you begin with the end in mind, you gain a different perspective.

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