Monday, September 24, 2012

Wanted: A Great Job!

I've been in Germany for a year now and am feeling settled in. The kids are adjusting well. We've gotten their schools sorted out. I've found them pediatricians, orthodontists, eye doctors, sports clubs, and tutors as needed. They've made nice friends; and the initial transition drama has faded away. The household is set up, major appliances purchased, closets and shelves built, lamps hung, etc.

Life has returned to a normal routine for the family in most regards. But there's one big exception: I've not returned to my own career. Now that everyone else is taken care of, it's time to focus a bit of effort on my own needs.

I've completed all the residency paperwork and obtained my German driver's license. I've built a network of wonderful, supportive local and expat friends, joined a book club, began some volunteer work with an exchange organization, and even held a mini-job for most of the last year, providing English tutoring and assisting faculty at the children's school a couple hours each month. But I need more.

I need a great job.

What's a Great Job?

I am a subscriber to the philosophy "without dreams there is no need to work and without work there is no need to dream." I also believe I can pursue both work and dreams by doing what I love, and loving what I do. And that's what having a great job is all about. It's not about the money; that's just a nice by-product of a great job.

A Great Job is one where I engage with a team of bright, fun people, collaborating on interesting challenges with ample opportunity to take my own initiative. It's one where I can contribute to providing an outstanding product or service; where my unique skills make a difference in the success of the organization. It's also one where I can continually develop my skills by learning from great minds around me; where I respect and am inspired by the people I call colleagues, clients, and vendors.

What Would I Do at a Great Job?

I cringe a bit each time someone asks me "What do you do?"
The short answer is: I'm a Communication Professional. That's what my formal education prepared me to become and the essence of what made me successful in the positions I've held.

But I've applied my communication skills in very diverse settings, often filling an undefined void in dynamic organizations. I connect the dots, build relationships, refine processes...make things work, or work better...

A little bit about my background and past Great Jobs...
During four years of graduate school, I studied, conducted research, and taught classes in three communication fields: health, cross-cultural, and organizational. I worked extensively in local hospitals with resident physicians to improve psycho-social communication skills with patients from diverse cultures.

Then for nearly ten years I worked for an innovative Public Policy firm in Michigan. My titles included "Project Manager" and "Research Methodologist" but the responsibilities were rather broad and changed as the business grew. Our clients represented an incredibly wide range of fields including: education (charter schools and education voucher systems), work force development, small business economic impact measures, natural resource uses and tourism, health care policy, etc. The myriad of subjects in which I developed content expertise along with the opportunity to take on tremendous responsibility made it a really Great Job!

After moving to Maryland, I continued to consult for my previous employer and clients, but dedicated spare time to numerous non-profit organizations where I helped create major outreach and fund-raising events. The worthy causes I was able to promote (from an historic theater to international youth to a mental health association) and the fabulous volunteers and sponsors I dealt with made my freelance consulting a Great Job!

Eventually, I was asked to do some software testing at an interactive media firm that specialized in online education. The clients there were mostly large medical societies or science foundations. Being a small and dynamic firm, that role also grew quickly to include not only quality assurance but content management, project management, product support, client training, and technical documentation. I was constantly learning new technical skills and transferring that know-how to new situations. The fast-paced, cutting-edge technology environment paired with brilliant colleagues made that a particularly Great Job!

The common thread to success in these Great Jobs: a positive attitude with excellent communication and organizational skills and an ability to connect people and technology.

What Are the Tangible Benefits of a Great Job?

Another question I cringe at: "What are your salary expectations?"
A truly Great Job offers priceless intangible rewards: personal growth, professional development, job satisfaction, new friends, interesting travel, the ability to look forward to each new day at work with smart, fun colleagues.

Financial compensation is only one tangible benefit among several very important considerations. How flexible are the hours? How far is the commute? How much vacation time is available? Are there annual or performance bonuses? What kind of travel is involved? Are there company perks, such as a car, airline miles, conference attendance, or discounted products/services available?

The most important benefit I've had across all my Great Jobs: Fantastic "bosses" who offered a finely-tuned balance of flexibility, financial fairness, and fun on the job.

Where Do I Find A Great Job?

I've been blessed to have most of these Great Jobs find me. The owners of the two firms where I've worked the longest were associates or friends who asked me if I could help them out on a project. Those part-time, temporary positions quickly evolved into very rewarding Great Jobs that I was sad to leave - but life moved me to new places. Most of my freelance work came to me through referrals. So now I'm building my network, meeting interesting and smart people, and trusting that with the right connections, another Great Job will come my way.

If you happen to know someone in the Essen or Düsseldorf area with a Great Job opportunity ripe for a vibrant bilingual communication professional, please, send them my way!

My professional data can be found on LinkedIn.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pizza Culture: An International Culinary Adventure

The other morning I sat down to breakfast with the morning newspaper and a flier for a local pizza delivery company fell in front of me. One glance at the pictured specialties and I lost my appetite for the eggs on my plate.

A large photo featured a pizza with hard boiled eggs, broccoli, corn, and curry sauce! Seriously? Does anyone eat that? With a little imagination I can believe people might like curry sauce with chicken and pineapple on their pizza - but eggs and broccoli?! No. Thank. You.

Glancing through the Joey's Pizza ads, I found several combinations that challenged culinary couth. How would you like steak, asparagus, and Hollandaise sauce on thin crust? Feeling a little dull? Try the sharp edge of a "Pizza Hot Conchita" with spicy BBQ sauce, hamburger, bacon, red onions, Mozzarella, and chili peppers. And call the fire department.

Flipping through more pizza menus, I had a flashback to the first meal I shared with my host family in Germany as a 16-year old Congress-Bundestag Exchange Student. The day I arrived, they took me to a festival along the beach near our home on the Baltic Sea, then out for dinner at a local Italian place. Since I didn't speak any German, I opted for the first thing I was certain I understood on the menu: Peperoni Pizza. I really couldn't understand why my host brother seemed so surprised and asked me if I was sure that was what I wanted. Until it sat before me. I quickly discovered to my horror that "peperoni" in German is not at all the same as "pepperoni" in English. Rather, in Germany, this is a hot green chili pepper. If you want the traditional American pizza topping, then you need to order "Salami." I've tried to warn unsuspecting tourists about this, but it never fails that visiting friends forget, and order a pie full of hot peppers.

After seeing the flier with hard boiled eggs on pizza, I jumped online and surveyed my Twitter friends for the strangest pizza toppings they've found outside the US.  I got some interesting feedback! Here are a few of the oddities people have encountered around the world:

  • Dönerfleisch (shaved seasoned lamb similar to that used for Greek Gyros) with onions, peppers, and tzatziki (a cucumber and garlic-based yogurt sauce).
  • Tuna fish, shrimp, salami, spinach, and garlic.
  • Mixed seafood (including octopus, mussels, shrimp, and clams) with garlic.
  • Pineapple, ham, and onions (although I've often seen this "Hawaiian" combination in the US, too).
  • Turkey, artichokes, and onions.
  • Olives, sardines, capers, Feta cheese, spinach, and garlic.
  • Smoked salmon, spinach, peppers, and garlic.
  • Eggplant, spinach, broccoli, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and artichokes.

I can be adventurous with food. So I'd be willing to try a few of these, but some topping combinations are just too much of a challenge to my open-mindedness.

What are your preferences for pizza? Anything you've seen that made your stomach turn over? I'd love for you to share your thoughts and experiences!

Photo Credits & Disclaimer: all photos are from advertisements for Joey's Pizza in Muelheim an der Ruhr, Germany. Joey's has not sponsored or endorsed this blog in any way. I have not actually tried any of the mentioned pizzas.