A Mind-Blowing Cover Letter- What would you do?

Recently I’ve been on a new job hunt. After quite a few years of doing gigs I figure that a little stability might be nice. After all who doesn’t like knowing where their next pay check is coming from. One particular job I came across was for a non-profit doing marketing volunteer work. I’ve worked with non-profits since graduating college. While looking at it and thinking I wouldn’t working for them I came across one requirement which was to provide a mind-blowing cover letter. Tall order, right? What does the hiring manager think of as a mind-blowing cover letter any way? That got me to thinking perhaps a little to literal and the end result was the image below. We will see how it is received.

Have you ever applied for a job in a non traditional way and were hired?

I would like to know from any creative people out there what kind of things you did to get noticed by prospective companies. Please share your thoughts, ideas, and success.


CRAVE: A Food Lovers Way to Think About Weight Loss & Exercise

How is the New Year diet going? Like millions of other Americans I enjoyed a bevy of food and beverages over the holidays. Including some desserts worth eating beyond the traditional pumpkin pie. I love food and both my wife and I enjoy a bit of high caloric intake with some exotic twists (i.e. macadamia nut crusted swordfish, foi gras, and salted caramel chocolate tart!). So needless to say I’ve gained some weight. In fact, my dieting and exercise of late is so that I can eat comatose and glutenous portions. My wife and I have been hitting the local gym since September so this isn’t just a New Year kick only to be forgotten. But with the new year brings a reminder that I gained an additional 10lbs. So what to do.

Losing weight comes down diet and exercise. It is possible to lose weight by exercising or dieting but without both it takes longer and often doesn’t last as long. Or so my Iron Man running friend says and my wife also. The reason is because you have to actually burn more calories than you consume. Think of it like this.

Calories Consumed - Calories Burned = Weight ±

I will say I am not a super fit enthusiast committed to a work out regiment of daily or every other day exercises. I go as often as I find or make time. I do have victories in weight loss and at other times glorious experiences in delicious food consumption. So I wanted to give a few thoughts on how to lose weight from a mildly over weight person. So wait for it…I give you C.R.A.V.E!

Okay not really that exciting but I think it helps in my opinion.

Commit. This is saying you are going to do it. I am going to go on these days to exercise. Having set days and a plan to lose weight as opposed to a generic statement that I will lose weight is not likely to help you succeed. Just write down failed diet attempt right now if that is what you are going to do. You are creating a new habit and without forming a habit you will fail. So committing with real tangible times and details is the more likely way you are going to make it happen. Mind you it doesn’t have to super difficult. Start with things that are manageable and work from there.

Recruit. Get people on your bandwagon. Rah, Rah, Rah your spouse, your friend, your neighbor, an online community, shoot-even Jenny Craig, just somebody to help you stay on track and keep you accountable. The hardest part of burning fat is keeping the drive. The best way to do that for most is have someone rooting for you, holding you accountable, and encouraging you to do it when you don’t want to. If you are really conscious about your weight then find someone you can talk to. For me this person is my wife and a few of my really fit friends who don’t judge but encourage me to be fit even when I eat a giant bowl of ice cream while watching Biggest Loser. Yes, I have done this.

mm-eatingAppetite. You’ve heard it said that you are what you eat. Not knowing what you eat is probably what makes most of us overweight if not obese. When we gain weight it often comes down to the amount of calories we put into our body. For instance, I love pasta and I can make some excellent sauces. I will have to share some with you but I will say they are not all low calorie. The problem is that I don’t want just one serving but two or three. This runs into the next part a little but you will want to watch the calories you take in. For instance, I prefer to drink juice over water. That juice comes with calories. My wife loves tortilla chips and so do I. Nom nom to an extra 2 lbs without even thinking about it. So finding ways to check your food loving self like logging food with apps or online sites like My Fitness Pal will help you track what you are taking in.

Valuate. Here I mean that measure how things are going. Is it working for you? The worst thing is to be dieting and exercising only to find that you aren’t losing. That is frustrating. But think of your body as you eat that there are calories associated with it or as you exercise you are burning those calories. It can be very helpful to know approximately how many calories you are burning every time you exercise. 3500 calories is pound. Get on a treadmill and see how long it takes to burn off. For instance, yesterday I went 6.5 miles in 1hr 20 mins on an elliptical machine which burned 840 calories. Ways to measure can be for you to buy a pedometer, or when you hit the gym measure on an exercise machine the calories burned. The better idea of how your body works the better decisions you can make about eating.

Enjoy. For some it might be a class, it might be an activity like basketball or maybe racquetball. Right now I am doing the gym but there was a time that all did was basketball or I did P90X. And the times I didn’t do anything I gained. Yeah there is a pattern. But see if you like something over another than do what you enjoy. I know someone who does karate and another that does jujitsu.

Also find some food that you might like that is healthier. My wife and I decided to find foods in the store that we don’t typically eat and try them out. And I will say we’ve found a few goodies such as pomegranates (good evening snack) and jicama that we’ve added to our diet as healthy snacking alternatives. Still delicious without all the extra calories like my all time favorite types of desserts like ice cream.

I do have to say one thing about exercising routines. Keep at it. It is tempting to stop but don’t. You will find that you get a better self talk the more you work through.

Also, I would recommend a product that I have used, my parents have used, and some of my friends have used which is P90x workout videos. It is a great workout regiment if you are really looking to make an impact. When I was doing it regularly I lost 2lbs a week during the duration. Now I didn’t quite make it 90 days but if you want to really cut down fat and whip you into shape then use it. If you do it, just know that you will likely feel like you are failing but don’t be discouraged. Keep hitting play and over time you will lose weight.

Tile Project My Experience and Directions

tiling-projectI never knew the joy of home ownership since most of my life I grew up in a rented townhouse/apartment. So most of the major repairs needed over the years were done by the owners of the property. This left me with little to no experience in home repair (no fault to my parents). Needless to say remodels and fixes were a surprise to me as I found the cost to hire greater than I would like to spend. You get it, go on vacation as opposed to fix something. Sigh*. So recently my wife and I decided to do a small update to the kitchen.

Our project was to fix/change the kitchen wall from a wood back splash and paint to a tiled wall. Yes, you read it right, WOOD BACK SPLASH! Nightmarish sound track in the background. The contractor insisted to my mother in law who previously owned the house that a wood back splash would be completely easy and acceptable for the kitchen. I can only see this being a money saving suggestion on his part. Needless to say the wood over time warped and had a little mold growing behind it.

So we set out to our local home repair store to find products for replacing our back splash. We had some helpful tradesmen at the store that gave us a demo on how to do tiling. He had over a decade of tiling experience. As we got a demo he introduced us to this product SimpleMat which I think only Home Depot carries but could be wrong. You also can find Bondera (something similar) at Lowes or you can buy Bondera from Amazon. Basically, its a strong adhesive that you use in place of your mortar and without the necessity of backer board. Not sure this is true so don’t take my word for it. In the end I did use backer board due to damage I caused preparing for my new back splash.

tile-demo-tearAt home when I was demoing the wood back splash there was a part where the adhesive for the back splash tore up a half inch part our laminate counter. We were concerned that a few hundred dollar project was now turning into a few thousand dollar or more kitchen remodel. After visiting several of our local tile and counter store we decided that a new counter would have to wait. So back to the store in which I found I could cover our small tear with a quarter inch backer board and save myself the big kitchen remodel another day.

If you are looking to tile a back splash, here is what I did.

  1. Watch Youtube videos and read blogs. Yes since I am not the most informed person when it comes to home repair and improvement I watched and re-watched and read and reread videos and blogs. Being informed is worth its weight in gold.

  2. cleaning-moldDemo and cleaned wall to remove a small batch of mold. If you find mold it is best to scrub it clean and use a Mold Armor mold remover/cleaner. You don’t want spores and the like spreading.

  3. cutting-backer-board-1measuring-back-splash Cut backer board to the length of your kitchen wall with holes for out lets. Cut holes for you outles big enough to fit your electric cords through but not to big since you will need outlets and switches to fit against the wall and a place for your tiles to rest. A tape measure should be sufficient for measurements. I used some wrapping paper that neither of us particularly liked. Because I am a visual person this helped me to cut a mostly accurate layout that we needed.

  4. installing-backer-boardAttach backer board to the wall using backer board screws. If you are looking to see where studs are you can get a good idea based on your cabinets and where they are anchored to the wall.

  5. simplemat-adhesiveUse Simple Mat adhesive instead of mortar to adhere tiles to the wall. This was very easy as it was a peel and stick to the wall. 9 months later the back splash is still looking good. So I am happy so far and hopeful that it will continue. You can buy this from Home Depot or something similar like this tile adhesive.

  6. attaching-tile-to-adhesiveAttach tiles to the adhesive. The only difficult part here is if you have glass tile is cutting it. I bought a glass tile nipper but I found that I had a hard time making the cleanest cuts. If I were to go back and do this project again I would have spent the extra $20 or whatever the price difference is for a ceramic tile cutter

  7. Use a premixed grout (Simple Grout). Every step takes time and so this seemed like the quickest method. I used Delorian Gray color since it was neutral color to our tile colors. If you buy grout that you need to mix follow the directions and it shouldn’t be difficult. Spread the grout across your tile in different directions. Side to side and up and down. You will need a grout float to do this. You really don’t need a nice one unless you plan on doing this frequently.

  8. grouting-tile-2 Use a slightly damp sponge to remove access grout. You don’t need to worry about removing all of this. As it dries you’ll be able to remove excessive grout with some cheese cloth.

  9. tile-covered-with-haze Remove grout haze from glass tile. After 2 hours of applying the grout wipe the tiles with cheese cloth. The grout should be stiff enough that you wont need to worry about damaging it but still remove the haze on your tiles. The longer you wait the hard this will be which you don’t want. It may even be permanent from what I understand so don’t forget. If you do there are tile cleaners that remove grout from your tile but its better to avoid altogether.

  10. Apply caulking around the edges of the back splash. The reason for this is that as temperatures fluctuate or your house settles it gives some elasticity between your counter and other parts of your wall. Otherwise your grout would crack over time.

  11. Apply Grout Sealer. Grout by itself is pores and as water and other things interact it can either stain or breakdown. So you want to apply this according to the directions. Do this a day or two after your application. And do it once a year as it will wear off depending on wear and tear.

  12. IMG_1580Enjoy you new back splash!

Review of TreeHouse Online Learning

Learning is one thing that I really enjoy. Part of this is being in an industry (internet marketing & web design) that requires you to learn due to its ever evolving nature. Most of my energy learning has been though attending conferences offline and online, local meetups, going to college, getting more college, and taking online classes. The recent addition to this has been through subscribing to TreeHouse online courses. Here I have some thoughts about the program.

NOTE: I do like this service so this is a sincere review. However, I do want to make it clear that the links in this post do give me a free account to Treehouse if I refer enough people to Treehouse. I would recommend giving them a try but if this in some way poorly reflects my review than please let me know. You don’t need to click on them nor do you need to feel required to click on them.

First, I want to say that taking some this was to expand my knowledge. I would consider myself an intermediate web designer. My abilities knowledge of WordPress, CSS, and HTML all self taught have been important but there are areas that I believe I could use a little more understanding. That is why I went to find something that could pay for some additional training.

The areas that have really interested me at Treehouse have been in CSS, WordPress, Javascript, & PHP. While CSS, HTML, and WordPress I have extensive knowledge in PHP and Javascript I am a noob. Well, I can say safely that I know enough about PHP to at least understand to some level what is going on and execute some scripts.

So why did I go with this?

I would start by saying TreeHouse offers an organized method to learn your desired skills. What I don’t have time for is haphazard learning skills that I have gained from my own studies in other areas. A laid out course like TreeHouse provides me with succinct step by step plans to help me learn and retain knowledge. Since I am a hands on type of learner this programs helps me learn by providing projects and quizzes that test my understanding and knowledge.

The other reason is that it is affordable. I might spend a couple thousand to learn this in a school somewhere while I don’t expect to be an expert in programming within a couple months even if this takes me a couple years it won’t cost me large fees and time away from working that a school and classrooms might require.

A benefit of the program is that there is a community you can be a part of. The forums section allows you to interact with other users with questions and answers. So you can find other people to participate or look for answers if you get stuck. There is also a job section with companies who see the benefit of people who come out of learning programs like TreeHouse.

There are a couple of things that I consider a downside. I wouldn’t mind some of the modules to have more blog related content. Although they do have it all transcribed it would be nice for me to be able to read a few things. The other is some of the presenters just feels a little awkward or sound funny to me. Really both points are minor.

Overall I have found that TreeHouse has been a positive experience for me. I hope to continue learning and adding to my knowledge in areas of web design and development.

Getting Ready for Facebook Search

Facebook has announced it’s plans for a search engine. Why shouldn’t they since they have such a large user base and would keep users on the site for even longer. When it comes to search marketing it is worth a businesses to consider what it might take to get their business showing up in search results. I’ve provided a brief overview of some things I think will matter when it comes to getting your business listed on the search engine. Read Post…

Before, During, and Morning After of Networking

Networking three years ago was probably the most neglected subject of my career. I had the IQ of just about a zero. Perhaps subconsciously I figured if I gave someone a business card that they would connect with me. Little did I know that most everyone else also behave in the same way. I began to realize about year ago that people are not necessarily proactive when it comes to their network. The mentality for us all is what is in it for me. If you can provide them with a good reason to connect, often showing a little interest, then they are more likely to stay in touch with you. Here is how I go about networking before, during, and after the event.

1) I plan and think about the networking opportunities before I go. This isn’t extensive and takes just a little work.

  • I look to see who is going. I do this by looking at the website that might reference attendees which is a perfect opportunity to start the networking. Try to reach out to those people through email, Twitter, or Linkedin as is appropriate. You don’t want to harass people but let them know you will be there and would like to meet up with them.
  • I also think about how and what I am going to say about my career. Most people are going to ask you about your career. It is the perfect opportunity to focus on the key points. Practicing this helps you be concise. Make it short and to point. Having a couple of ideas and trying different approaches is good to see how people respond.
  • I set a goal of people I want to meet. If the meeting is short then make new contacts your main goal and then allow for a couple of familiar faces. If it is hours then you have a lot more time to say hi to both new and familiar faces.
  • Bring enough business cards for the event. If there are lots of people then you can plan to have plenty of cards. In a few hours I like to connect with at least 40-50 people. That gives me enough time to find out what they do.

2) During the event I take into action the plan I started with. This is only helpful if you think about it and once you have a plan it is easier to execute at further events. Here is how I go about networking during the evening.

  • First I show up early/on time as much as possible. This helps me maximize the most of the event. I am able to skip the lines for registration and the beverage line or whatever else that might keep me from networking and I stay nearly up to the end.
  • Second I focus on people I knew I wanted to talk to. Not spending to much time looking for them is the biggest problem in a large crowd.
  • Third I look for wanders and loners. This helps you to connect with them briefly. The one thing that you have to be careful of with these people is that they may take too much of your time. Not that you don’t want to spend time with them. You just are to connect. Life long friends can be for latter.
  • Fourth, I target small groups that look like they can handle one more person. Here is where you have to over come your fears. I step in and wait for a moment to see what they are talking about. If it interrupts the conversation then I say I hope I am not interrupting. Most people are polite and say oh no it’s fine and the conversation continues. The difficulty is that these small groups often are a few people who know each other. So try to contribute to the conversation so you have something to be remembered by on their part. You are going to remember them.
  • Fifth, I ask for the business card. People won’t always think to ask because maybe they are having fun with their friends. If they don’t have a business card you still give them yours and then write their name down. I use my phone for this since its small and I carry it with me everywhere. The thing I am still working on is connecting with people on Linkedin before I even leave the conversation.

3) The mourning after in networking. The follow up is where a lot of people fall down. In fact, many business never follow up even with the connections they have after conferences. You think this is intuitive but many people don’t take the time. Here is what I do.

  • I start by going to Linkedin and attempt to connect with the people that I have business cards. In each email I send them a personalized message. Something like “It was great to meet you at the ABC networking event. I had a great time talking with you about XYZ. I wanted to connect with you online. (Here is where I often ask a question). Not every one will answer but that allows a little bit of a dialogue. Then I close with my name and my company.
  • Next I try to cover the people who I didn’t have business cards for. Finding them is usually easy as long as you’ve taken notes back at the networking event.
  • Finally I try to follow up with people that don’t have a Linkedin profile. I will look at twitter or send them an email just to say it was great meeting you.

After all is said and done I’ve grown my network. At the next event I repeat the process and if I played it right I have more people to say hi to next time the event happens and I am able to meet more contacts.

Are there things you do to help grow connections in a quick and easy way? What kind of suggestions would you provide to those looking to do a better job networking?

Introduction to DerekHanson.me

In a digital age it is apparent that people can have something to say about your brand. It simply can be problematic or even catastrophic. The biggest problem is if someone takes your brand/person and has control of it. In most cases that is not likely but what is more common for people and some brands is the constant chatter online. What makes you stand out from the rest? That is what DerekHanson.me is all about. Let me give an example.

Search for the term Derek Hanson. What do you find.

Over 9 million results! Are you kidding me. Is it likely that someone is going to wrap my name in quotes? No. So what is left is a bunch of noise and little of me. So really this blog is to help me capture more of a presence online.

The other side of my need to create is that I don’t have a catch all. A website that might share a little bit about the things I enjoy that don’t match my niche sites. So here can be a little bit about me from another angle.

So here I am.

Achieving With Failure

I came across an interesting project of late called the Failure Club. The project follows a group of NYC dwellers as they set out to do something they thought would be great. It allows people to imagine a dream and try to make it happen even if they don’t have the expertise to fulfill their desire. Participant goals range from a clothing store start-up, a comedian hopeful, a bike build, and a handyman company. The project strikes me as a that perhaps more of us could use something like this. What are your dreams? Maybe getting that dream job, starting a business, or some other adventure. I briefly wanted to cover some things that I gleaned from watching an episode or two.

Make short actionable goals. I think sometimes the failure of a business or goals in our life is that we don’t set some sort of actionable thing and try to achieve it. Great things don’t happen without a plan and sometimes those plans are as far as one step at a time. So if you have the high level goal of becoming a doctor your first step would be going to school. So find the small step that reaches the next step.

Just Do It. A great slogan but a must for everyone. I think the great thing about the Failure Club is that these are people who want to do something about their dream. They are each doing something about it. Whether it is meeting weekly or finding people to help them get there they are taking action.

Support your dream. Sometimes a dream realized needs support. Of course there will be people who doubt but find people who can be honest with you about your dream goals. The goal is to make the dream a reality so you need people who can help you get there and make it happen.

Set a time frame. By setting a date it gives you pressure to do something about it. If you cant achieve your goal by reasonable time frame then at least you tried even if you failed. Will we always fail? No. Might we win? Yes!

So here is to those who go out, try and fail. At least you will have an interesting story to tell. Find out about my dream.