Monday, June 30, 2008

Reflections on being home

It has been a while since I wrote. I've now been home half a year. The time has gone very quickly, and sometimes I have so many things to do I wonder how I found time to work! The good news is that my health has improved--I am off blood pressure medicine. I'm exercising a lot more and eating more healthily.

Some days India feels far away to me, but at the same time I miss it. Though I was ready to return home, there were so many places I did not get to see, so many photographs I did not get to take, so many friends left unmet. Occasionally--as the other day--I will still wake with the distant sound of bells from the Hindu morning pooja ringing in my ear. Someday, I will return, I know.

I have taken time in this six months to see my own country, sometimes through fresh eyes. We traveled along the eastern seaboard to Florida, and to Alaska. I have enjoyed the beautiful scenery of New Hampshire and New England, in spring and in winter, as well as now in summer. Recently, I missed one experience that would have probably reminded me of India--the annual strolling of the heifers in Brattleboro, Vermont (I'll definitely catch this next year!) In early September, Marty and I will spend a week on an island off the coast of New Hampshire, and catch the fall colors.

But, there is more than reuniting with family and travel these days to occupy me. In the last couple of weeks, I have started networking to find a new position (or positions).

Most career experts will tell you that networking is THE way to get a job. Statistically, only about 5% of jobs are filled through job postings on the internet or in classifieds, and even fewer by sending unsolicited resumes to overworked and understaffed HR departments (or sending them to managers and having them referred, unopened, to the HR group). Between 10-15% are filled through recruiters or headhunters. But the vast majority of people get jobs through who they know, and by being at the right place at the right time.

Though only a sample of one, I have to say that my own career attests to this. I can think of only one position in my whole life that I got through an ad, and virtually every other job was through contacts. Even my first job outside of working for my dad--as a waitress in a local restaurant when I was 15--I found through a friend. For a couple of jobs, including the one I had at Mazda, I didn't even have a proper interview. I don't expect that now in this more rigorous age, but I do expect the unexpected--that some chance encounter may well lead to the next stage in my career.

I've thought a lot about what I'd like to do--and not do. For the moment, I'm concentrating on interim positions--assignments where someone is needed for a finite period of time to manage and/or find a successor, build an organization, set up a department or policies, etc. I'd definitely like to use my international experience. Probably an ideal scenario is a company that's going global or needs global/international processes and thinking. Eventually, I'd like to teach at a college--but probably in a few years.

So my job for the next few months at least is networking. Fortunately, this is not difficult for me and I enjoy meeting new people. I've already heard some fascinating stories from people about their networking experiences. As I get more of this under my belt, I'll share some of these stories here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Alaska Adventure

I am overdue in writing about our cruise/land tour to Alaska. I'll keep it short, and include a lot of pictures of the fabulous scenery. I really recommend Alaska as a must-see place if you haven't been there. This is our second trip and we will probably go back--though not with a cruise. It is difficult to avoid overeating on a cruise even if you're careful, and while I didn't actually gain any weight, I felt so overloaded I went on a 3 day detox diet when I got back. Plus, I don't think we need another series of stops at Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Twice is enough.

Marty and I are now official members of the "30% club"--the percentage of people who actually SEE Denali (the great one, also known by the name it carried for most of the 20th century, Mt. McKinley). Denali is the highest mountain in North America, and since it sits on a lower plane, it actually has a higher vertical rise than Everest, at just over 20,300 feet. After spending a week cruising the Inside Passage of Alaska, we arrived at Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge on Monday afternoon, and the mountain was out virtually the entire time until we left on Wednesday morning. We were able to get several shots of it at various times of the day, as well as simply enjoy its silent majesty.

Alaska is awesome for its sheer natural beauty and wilderness, not to mention pure and clean air. You can mostly ignore the tourist kitch in the three stops made by the cruise ships--Ketchikan, where it rains nearly every day, Juneau, the capital, and Skagway, another small town with not much except tourist places. Despite this, we found some bargains--heavy coats for $19.95, a beautiful handmade sweater imported from South America, and a few other finds. The William Spear gallery in Juneau, where you can buy enameled zipper pulls and other jewelry at very reasonable prices, was a nice one.

The real pleasure of the cruise ship, though, is the trip down the fjords to see massive glaciers up close. Some of the glaciers are retreating and others are advancing. The massive Mendenhall Glacier outside Juneau is in serious retreat---we were there 5 years ago and could see the 1500 feet or so that the glacier has retreated in that time.

Probably most impressive was College Fjord, an inlet north of Skagway where a large group of glaciers--all named for New England colleges--can be seen from every side.

While in Juneau we went on a digitial photo safari, which included Mendenhall Glacier (noted above) as well as a boat trip. We were fortunate to see humpback whales as well as the wonderful scene below. On the buoy at the right, the lone bald eagle patiently allowed our boat to circle completely around, hardly moving. The seals at the base of the buoy were too zonked out from a long day of play to care.

This time of year, it never really gets dark in Alaska, especially as you go further north (Fairbanks, a little north of the center of the state, was as far as we went). The sun set around 11 p.m., but there was a twilight kind of shadow, until the sun began to rise around 3:30 or so. We found this hard to get used to, as the normal rhythms (it's dark, so I must be tired) don't apply.