07 September 2017

7 Tips To Nail A Job Interview: Nonprofit Edition

At the nonprofit where I work, hiring is a collaborative process. When someone leaves or is promoted, the hiring manager revisits the job description to make changes as necessary, then shares it with colleagues for feedback. The job description is finalized and posted (generally to our website and Idealist.org), and we wait eagerly for the applications to come streaming in.

The average job posting gets 20-100 applications during the 2-3 week posting window. The hiring manager is responsible for culling through the cover letters and resumes, grading applicants on things like relevant skills, nonprofit experience, volunteer experience, enthusiasm, grammar, and overall presentation (for tips on how to make your application stand out, check out my How To Get A Job: Nonprofit Edition blog), and selecting the 10-15 people who will move on to the next round of 30-minute phone interviews.

During this initial phone call, I specifically look for someone who is excited about the job AND about the organization, can give relevant examples of related skills, and stands our from the pack. These things, along with scores from the previous resume review round, are all tallied into a spreadsheet. The top 4-5 candidates are asked in for an interview with a team of interviewers (generally 2-4 people who will be working closely with the position).

No matter how hard we try, we always end up with someone in an interview who shouldn't be there. I once had a girl answer a scheduled phone interview while she was driving (she had picked the time!). We had another candidate come in for an in-person interview who was so long-winded we got through two questions and still went over our allotted time.

To avoid being "that person", here are 7 Tips to Nail a Job Interview:
  1. Do your research. Before you arrive, research the organization and make sure this is a place you want to work. I can tell if you want to work here or if you just want to work somewhere. I don't need you to recite the mission statement, but I want to see that you understand and relate to our ethos. Bonus points if you can relate the job to how it will benefit the overall organization.
  2. Say enough, but not too much. This should go without saying, but, per the example of Blabby McBlabberPants, it does not. You want to share enough information without losing your audience. You also need to talk long enough to answer the question that has been asked. If you are a numbers person, plan to talk for 2-5 minutes per question. A sure sign an interview has gone awry is if it's over well before the allotted time.
  3. Make eye contact. Always look at your interviewer(s) in the eye. You don't need to be creepy-staring-person, but use the appropriate amount of eye contact. This shows you understand basic human interaction and that you will be comfortable to work with. Bonus points if you use your interviewers' names in the interview.
  4. Assume interviewers know very little about you, especially the people who did not conduct the phone interview. With 10-15 phone interviews and probably no more than 5 minutes to review your resume and cover letter before an in person interview, it's safe to say you earned your spot at the table but need to remind your interviewer(s) why you're there. Don't be afraid to repeat things you've already talked about or reference relevant experience highlighted in your application. As long as you aren't quoting yourself verbatim, it'll be welcome context for your conversation.
  5. Prep answers to standard questions. I'm going to help you out. Here are some standard questions you should prep for: What do you find most exciting about this position? What do you think will be your biggest challenge? What's your greatest professional success? Failure? Can you provide an example of a difficult work situation, and how you worked through the conflict? What is your ideal work environment? Worst environment? How does this position help you get to where you want to go in your career/life? What other stories do you want to share with us?
  6. Bring 3-4 questions to ask in return. Interviewers expect you to have questions, especially ones that show you've given thought to how you would contribute to the team. Ask questions during the interview to make it more conversational or save them until the end. You can learn a lot when you ask how long people have been in their position, why this current position is open, and what people find most rewarding/challenging at their organization. The last question should always be, "I'm really excited about this position. What is the next step?"
  7. Remember, interviewers want it to go well too. The person sitting across the table from you is absolutely rooting for you. Hiring is exhausting work, and I personally want every person who to be my next great staff member. Because then I get to be done hiring and begin the next stressful activity of on-boarding. But seriously, I'm rooting for you.
Follow these steps, and basic common sense*, and you'll land your dream job*. I wish you the best of luck in your next interview.***

*Don't show up hungover and smelling of booze...yeah that happened...
**Dream job not guaranteed, but seriously these tips are sound. 
***Full disclosure: I wrote this during a really bad interview, so sometimes I'm not rooting for you so much as rooting for it to be over.

25 August 2017

Turns All Year: Month 70

I have not been motivated to ski this summer. Maybe it's been all of the housework or the streak of sunny days, or maybe it's that - after 69 consecutive months of chasing anything that remotely resembles snow - I'm a little tired. 

By this time last summer (May-August) I had skied 13 days. The season before I did 9. This year, I've done, 5 and I'm fine with it. I've still managed to get in one day a month, and last weekend I completed my 70th month of Turns All Year. That's nearly 6-years of strapping skis to my feet for at least an hour to make turns. If it sounds like a long time to you, believe me, it is! But I have friends who are in the 200s...if I'm feeling this unmotivated now, who knows what the future will hold?

Nevertheless, I'm happy to have made it to 70 months. Fingers crossed the annual September turns at Mt. Hood will go great, we'll get snow in October, and then it'll be smooth sailing November-April to make it an easy glide toward 79 months, which is practically 100. My goal is to make it to triple digits, then see how I feel.

Hey. Wanna go for a hike? Photo by Jason Sellers.

For August turns, I texted my friend Jason to ask if he wanted to go on a hike. Only after he said yes did I clarify that by "hike" I meant driving to a far away place where snow still exists and hiking for a long time, then hitting snow and hiking more so I could ski. AKA we were going on a trip to Mt. Rainier and a hike up the Muir Snowfield. Lucky for me he was still game, and he brought his fancy camera resulting in awesome photos for me. Win win.

I picked Jason up downtown at 7:15am on Sunday, August 20, and we were in the parking lot at Paradise by 9:30am. The Park has completely repaved the road from the Longmire entrance all the way to the Paradise lot, and let me tell you, it's incredibly smooth and easy driving. It makes for a much less painless trip up zee mountain. Even so, the lot was nearly full when we arrived.

Not pictured: the lines of folks we just passed to get this shot. Photo by Jason.

We were hiking by 9:50 and cruised past a bunch of tourists on the way up. I have to say, I've been wearing the damn tutu for five years now and I've noticed a sharp decline in comments about my outfit. I'd like to think it's because I'm so famous on Instagram so people already know who I am, but in reality I think it indicates a growing level of disenchantment among people in general, which makes me sad. Smile people. Strike up a conversation with a stranger. I promise, it's not going to kill you.

I carried skis for about 90 minutes to 7,400' before transitioning, just above Pebble Creek. Jason - who doesn't ski - waited patiently while I swapped from hikers into ski boots, and then we were off. We never intentioned to go all the way to Camp Muir, but the climbing was easy and Jason was gabbing and before we knew it we were within sight! After 3 hours and 40 minutes, we arrived at Camp Muir.

The Muir Snowfield looking up toward the Nisqually Glacier. The snowfield was...dirty. The glacier was calving like crazy all day.

So close we can almost taste it! Photo by Jason.

The weather was slightly overcast and calm, but still warm enough to sit at Muir in shorts and a tank top, airing out my sweaty boots and letting my sun shirt dry. Jason hasn't had "my beer" yet, so I brought a Kick Step for him and he had a good time taking its photo. That can is darn photogenic!

Two legends together at last. Kick Step and John Muir. Photo by Jason.

Look Ma! It's the beer I made! Photo by Jason.

Kick step gets two thumbs up. Except, my other thumb is busy right now holding my beer. Photo by Jason.

With beers in bellies, there was only one thing to do: head down. I'm not going to sugar coat this for you: the skiing was horrific. From 10,000' at Camp Muir down to about 8,000', the skiing was a VW Beetle sized shit-show. With huge, sharp penitentes and deep, slugbug sized holes, it was like trying to ski down an angry, frozen ocean of terror. 

Thinking I would get way ahead of him, Jason hurried down the hill only to turn around and see me stopped every time. He thought I was waiting for him to get ahead. In reality, I was waiting for my legs to recover and hoping my heart wouldn't explode from the combination of exertion and fear. For the first time in my life, I regretted having skis and wished instead for the sweet comfort of glissading down on my bum.

We managed to get only one photo of the heinousness, and I'm not upset about it.

Survival skiing to the max. Photo by Jason.

Eventually the snow smoothed out to your standard dirty, pocket-filled, August affair. Then the skiing was okay. Dare I say almost pleasant? According to my tracker, I even managed to hit a whopping 20.1mph. Watch out Lindsey Vonn, I'm coming for you!

Jason glissading down. I was jealous.

Then that was that. We were done with the snow and before we knew it we were back at the car by 4:30pm. The whole thing took 6.5 hours, including an hour break at Camp Muir. Not bad for a day's work.

The crowning glory of the day is this photo Jason captured of me on the ascent: 

Legs for days. Photo by Jason.

I stand at 5'2". You would never know it by looking at this photo. When I posted it to Instagram saying, "proof that short girl dreams can come true", another girl couldn't believe I wasn't 5'7". Thanks to a low angle, short shorts, a hip pop accentuated by the pink tutu, and heel risers, for the first time in my life I look like I have legs. 

Thanks Jason. This photo makes my week! Who knew heel risers are the only type of heels a girl needs?

23 August 2017

What You Can Do With A Gallon of Paint

Before and after, all in one photo.

When Jordan and I met three years ago, we each had our own individual dreams of buying a house. Last May I was able to buy a townhouse to celebrate my 32nd birthday (in a truly serendipitous fashion), and this year Jordan closed on a house-house a week before I turned 33. And that was that. After exactly one year in my townhouse and one lovingly painted mountain mural, we packed our stuff and moved into the new place!

I'm so happy with our new home, and all of the work we've done to make it our own. Jordan scored this beautiful 2-bedroom, 1 bath, rambler-style 1948 house on 1/8 of an acre, but that's a story for another time. For now, let me tell you that it only had one previous owner who lived here for nearly seven decades. The house has good bones, a solid roof and foundation, and recently replaced windows. It also has a furnace the size of a Subaru and a "pink" problem.

Believe it or not this was the garage. It's white and full of our favorite gear now.

The long term plan is to expand the house, but for now we're focused on making it as comfortable as possible for the two of us. We started by ripping up carpet and linoleum, having the floor refinished, and painting every room in the house (except for the hallway; we'll get you one day my pretty!). It's amazing what a few gallons of paint can do!

We started in the living room. Our predecessor had owned a number of cats through the years and we are both highly allergic, so we pulled out all the carpet we could and ripped down drapes. Anything that had cat hair had to GO. Then I set about painting the living room walls and ceiling a nice white to give us a fresh, clean canvas.

Living room, with view of the front door toward the kitchen. I love the way the floors came out.

Living room view, while standing in the kitchen.

We managed to paint the living room and both bedrooms before we moved in, and were able to get the floors refinished too. After moving twice in a year and needing to do a lot of painting both times, I highly recommend this method when you can make it work.

The guest bedroom went from purple to blue. The dark purple baseboards took four coats of paint to cover, and the walls took two coats of primer and two coats of blue. Luckily I only had to paint the ceiling once, and had Theresa's help. Who knew ski buddies were good for more than skiing?

This is the guest bedroom, repainted a color we affectionately call "schmoo". 

For the master, we opted to get rid of the turquoise (which had been recently painted and wasn't bad) and go with a more calming, sage color. We both LOVE the way this came out, especially with the white molding. Sadly our beloved bed won't fit around the corner to make it into either bedroom, so we have to sell it, but we're becoming quite comfortable with our mattress on the floor solution (if you know anyone who wants an awesome, 4-drawer platform bed, hit me up!).

The master, our sage oasis.

The bathroom was a headache-inducing yellow. It felt like standing inside of a yellow mustard container. Even the ceiling was yellow. To tone down the heat, I walked into the bathroom with some primer and did a quick coat of white. I didn't tape anything or do it properly, and there are still big chunks of yellow behind the towel racks, etc. But I don't care. It's a total blind spot for me now. It's amazing how quickly you can learn to live with something after a few weeks.

Yellow onslaught before & after. Eventually we plan to swap the tub, add tile, and get a low-profile sink.

The last big thing we tackled was the kitchen. In keeping with the theme of the house it was PINK. And also peach/yellow. Jordan pulled all the cabinets and we got to work painting the insides of the cabinets white. Because of our fears of lingering cat dander, we opted to paint the entire cabinets, inside and out. The first coat, which also required sanding, took us both working for 6 hours. Jordan got stuck doing the second coat, and sanding, painting, and adding the new hardware to all of the cabinet doors, on his own. 

I eventually continued the sage we loved from our bedroom into the kitchen. After buying a little mobile dishwasher, the transformation was complete!

Kitchen looking toward the living room before & after.

More green paint.

And finally this week Jordan finished his crowning achievement - a very pacific northwest rock wall out front! We're excited about how this is coming along, and are grateful to everyone who helped us get to where we are. A housewarming party will be coming soon ... or probably in about 6-months if our last house is any indication.

Seattle City Water Bills, and above average heat, are responsible for the color of the "after" grass.

03 August 2017

What are the "Dr. Seuss Flowers" in the mountains?

Did you know Steelhead Trout are simply Rainbow Trout that choose to head into saltwater for 3ish years, thus growing bigger and living longer than their non-anadromous counterparts and becoming Steelhead? Yup! Steelhead Trout and Rainbow Trout are, in fact, one in the same. I love things that aren't quite what they seem.

That's why I find myself in love with the Western Pasqueflower. Last week my colleague and friend Suzanne shared photos from a recent hike and told me all about this shape-shifter. I've seen it for years and never knew the history of this dynamic plant. With this year's wildflower 'Super Bloom', it's an awesome time to go see this Dr. Seuss Truffula Tree in real life.

Here's what you need to know:

Sometimes called the white pasqueflower, this Dr. Seuss looking plant is a member of the buttercup family and starts its life as a short-stemmed flower. The flowers are usually white or soft purple, with a yellow buttercup center.

A White Pasqueflower. Photo by Suzanne Gerber.

These plants flower briefly in the mid-spring to mid-summer, usually right after the snow has fully melted, exposing the ground to sun. You can find these beauties in western North America, from British Columbia to California, from Washington to Montana. They thrive on gravelly slopes and in moist meadows. 

As the flowers grow, the petals (5-7 of them on average, if you are a counting person) fall off. The buttercup grows hair and the plant shoots up into a seedhead, eventually standing 1-2 feet tall. The hair continues to grow, giving these plants the Dr. Seuss we all love.

Photo by Suzanne Gerber.

You can see the entire lifecycle of the pasqueflower on this youtube video. And you can see it in person RIGHT NOW! Head to the mountains, specifically at an elevation where the snow has recently melted. If you're in the Pacific Northwest, head to Mt. Rainier or Heliotrope Ridge on Mt. Baker to see these in person. Extra bonus points if you dress as a Lorax for your adventure.

Photo by Nikki Brown. She likes to call them "floofs".

27 July 2017

Turns All Year: Months 67-69

When it comes to chasing Turns All Year, some years are easier than others. Sometimes you go big, carving turns every weekend, and some years you begrudgingly trudge into the mountains to make your obligatory turns one day a month. This summer has been the latter.

Despite a pretty killer winter that's carried snow well into the summer, I've struggled to find my stoke this year. Maybe I got in too much rad skiing in April. Maybe it's because I spent May, June, and July moving and settling into a new place after one-too-many house projects. Or maybe it's been so. damn. hot in Seattle this summer that I've turned into a sloth.

I've still managed to keep up the streak alive, and here are some of my favorite photos from Months 67, 68, and 69.

Alpental Closing Day: May 7 (month 67)

Last May I skied 5 days at the Kokanee Hut nestled in the heart of the Kokanee Range in BC. This year I skied lifts for two and a half hours at Alpental. You win some, you get drunk some.

Wiggin out with Tony.

Skiing face!

Only the best beer for Alpental's closing day.

Glacier Peak: June 24-26 (Month 68)

After two failed attempts at Glacier Peak, Theresa and I finally stood on her beautiful summit. Someday I'll write a trip report, but for now here are my five favorite pictures.

Skiing to camp after our first, very long day. Tired legs. Photo by Theresa.

The morning takes us to zee summit.

Summit beer. Photo by Theresa.

Most of the skiing was shit. The top five turns though, they were delicious. Photo by Theresa.

We're almost home (aka to the car). Can you feel the excitement?

Baker Crater - Via the Squak: July 1 (Month 69)

Jordan has never been to the summit of my favorite mountain: Mt. Baker, via the Squak Glacier. Despite a less than ideal weather forecast (too hot) and us needing to be back at a reasonable hour for work the next day, we slept out in our car and started up the Squak at 5am on the first day of July. We made it as far as the crater rim before calling it a day because of the aforementioned reasons and my screaming legs, tired from Glacier Peak just 6-days prior. The views were stunning and the skiing was.... skiing.

Views for days. See Glacier Peak?
Up we go. Went for a different color tutu. Photo by Jordan.

We play in big places.