The Forbidden Door

ff185-ceayr

copyright CEary

The Forbidden Door

I made my way through the inky blackness, walking ninja-like towards the door. A thick chain barred my way. Just like the queen to take such extreme measures to protect her riches. But I knew that she kept the key under her pillow, and I had stolen it.

I unlocked the chain and lowered it silently to the floor. As I drew open the door, a hallowed light burst from the chamber within, revealing the treasure I so desperately sought.

The light snapped on. “Harold, are you getting into the Thanksgiving pies?”

I wiped meringue off my lips. “No, dear.”

 


Amateur Night at the Cantina

Well, I’m not dead, in case any of you were wondering. It wouldn’t be totally implausible, since I dropped off the face of the blogging world for about 3.5 months. Partially, I needed a break, and I have been hard at work on a few large writing projects. Also, I felt bad about posting Friday Fictioneers stories when I didn’t have time to read anyone else’s.

I don’t know if I can come back at full strength, but I will try to post more regularly, if anyone is still around to read my stories.

ff183-bjorn-rudberg

copyright Bjorn Rudberg

Amateur Night at the Cantina

I shuffled onto the cantina’s stage, clutching my plasma cello with sweaty hands. Hundreds of eyes stared out at me from the gloomy bar, whole constellations of varying colors, shapes and sizes.

I started with some Beethoven, but I quickly felt an undertone of discontent grow in the air. I switched to some Trebellium orchestral music. It was so soaring and grand, it could make your heart weep, but the anger only grew.

“Play the song!” someone finally shouted.

That song. I hated it, but I had no choice if I wanted to escape alive.

Sigh.

I began to play.

(The idea for this story came from a scene from Family Guy’s Blue Harvest, where they joke that in the Mos Eisley cantina, they only play one song.)


Jabberwocky by UIU

It is summer at the moment, and if you work at a university, you know that summer is a fairly quiet time. So, I decided to have some fun at work. My favorite poem has for years been Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll. What I did was divide the poem up into small sections and I went around campus with a video camera and recorded staff, faculty and students saying the parts, then put them all together.

 


The Old Man and the Seafood

FF46 Janet Webb

copyright Janet Webb

The Old Man and the Seafood

Shoppers meandered around the store in hip waders, shopping carts half submerged.

“How did you come up with this idea?” the reporter asked.

Jeff grinned. “I thought it was about time someone applied the self-pick produce model to seafood. With seafood, freshness is everything. Here, everything is alive up until you buy it. No expiration dates needed.”

An old man shuffled up in oversized boots. “Excuse me, I just need a can of tuna.”

“No cans here, I’m afraid,” Jeff said, throwing the reporter another grin. “Everything’s fresh.” He handed the man a spear gun. “Bluefins are in aisle 30.”


8 Tips When Applying for a Job

I hate applying for jobs. You find one that you are decently qualified for, go through half an hour of filling out their application form, tweaking your cover letter and resume, checking all the other documents they want, sending it off and then . . . very often, nothing at all, until much later when you receive a form rejection letter from the HR department.

That, unfortunately is the way of things. All places receive way more applications that they can even give interviews to, but I always wondered what they were looking for. What could I do to get an edge?

Well, now I know a little more since I am on the other side of things. I am now in the position of hiring people and that has taught me a lot about the whole process. Of course, I can only speak for myself, and there is unfortunately no perfect formula for getting a job: if someone else is more qualified, they will probably get the position. However, here are 8 things that I can suggest that will help you put your best foot forward. I won’t include proofreading your cover letter and resume because I really hope you do that anyway.

1. Include everything in the job description

The whole point of your cover letter and resume is to get an interview. Remember that the people going over your application do not know a single thing about you besides what you put on those few pieces of paper. Your resume is just a list of what you have done and can’t really change much. However, the cover letter is a chance to show how that matches the job you’re applying for. Mention every single thing in the job description and why you can do it. If you don’t have direct experience, talk about transferable skills you have learned at other jobs. If the job asks for someone who is proficient at email, mention that you are. Don’t just assume they know you are, just because everyone should be. They probably have a checklist to make sure you have all the qualifications and you want them to be able to check all the boxes for you, not have a question mark next to some.

2. Be very specific on the cover letter, but don’t rewrite your resume

There is a very high probability that the people going over your application are going through a ton of them and that after a while, they all tend to blend together except for the very good and the very bad ones. Maybe it’s Friday afternoon and they’ve already picked out some to interview. Yours is the last one before they can go home. That’s bad news, especially if your cover letter has a lot of generalities, such as “In my last position, I excelled at the work and I am committed to working hard in this one as well.” That doesn’t say anything, unfortunately.

In the cover letter, lay out very succinctly why you are qualified for the job on all points. Lay out an orgy of evidence that not hiring you would be insanity, but be specific. Give examples from your past jobs. Personally, I don’t even mind bullet points because it makes it faster to get to the meat of the information. A warning, though, about bullet points: if you use them, do not just rewrite your resume in the cover letter. If you just list your education and work experience in your cover letter with little else, you might as well not even have one.

3. Make everything  on your resume as applicable as possible

This is hard to do sometimes, but whenever possible, make everything on your resume applicable to the job you’re applying for. That might be hard if you are, say, a certified backhoe operator and you’re applying to be a chef. It doesn’t hurt to have unrelated jobs listed, but it doesn’t help you either, and you need every edge you can get. This is a chance to highlight your transferable skills. In the above example, delete all references to dirt-moving ability, and say something like “worked well under pressure.” It’s not super persuasive maybe, but it’s something.

job application 3

“Works well within a time limit” [Source]

4. Make file names very clear, include your name in all of them

This is for applications where you need to attach a lot of documents. This maybe isn’t a deal breaker, but odd file names can cause confusion and you don’t want any negative feelings attached to you or your application. I recommend every file be a PDF with your full name, a hyphen (-) and what it is: either resume, cover letter, references, etc. PDFs are cleaner than Word documents and can’t be altered by anyone else.

Also, make sure the file name doesn’t say anything like Resumefinal.doc or coverletter-(company name).pdf or anything else. People know you are probably applying to tons of places, but it’s not good to remind them of that. Make a separate folder on your computer for every place you apply for so they don’t get mixed up (the worst thing you could do is send a letter to someone addressed to a different company), and so the resume and cover letter look like they’re your only one.

5. Use only English, don’t abbreviate place names people wouldn’t know

This is a minor one, but a pet peeve of mine. There should not be anything but English on the documents (unless, of course, you’re applying in another language, of course) except for names of places and people. If you do need to use words in other languages, make sure that they are transliterated into the English alphabet. It might make you look sophisticated to have Arabic or Chinese on your resume, but if the person doesn’t speak that language, it can only hurt you.

Also, do not use place name abbreviations outside your country. Everyone in Canada, for example, probably knows that ON means the province of Ontario, but if you are applying for a job outside of Canada, don’t use the abbreviation.

6. Be professional but don’t be scared to have some personality in your cover letter

This is probably the hardest line to walk. On one hand, this is a very formal process and not the best time for “’Sup guys, how about giving me a job over here?” Still, you don’t want to write a cover letter that sounds like it was written by a soulless robot, or even a soulful one.

The best approach, in my mind, is to avoid all slang and contractions to give it a formal feel, but use simple, conversational language and avoid buzzwords and jargon unless absolutely necessary. This will make it more readable and also come across as more natural, hopefully. It’s possible that the person going through your application may have to work with you if you are hired, and if they can get the impression that you would be great to work with, that can go a long way.

7. Don’t include a picture

This is just my opinion. It is pretty rare, but some people do include a picture of themselves. It may also be a cultural thing, where in some countries you might be expected to include a picture. However, it is not normal in the United States and to my mind, it can only hurt you. The best case scenario is that it won’t have any effect, but you want the people reviewing your application to judge you on your qualifications, not make snap judgments about your appearance. I was going to say that including your picture might be okay if you were extremely attractive, but even that could work against you if the person has some prejudice about beautiful people being less intelligent. You never know who will be looking at your application, so it’s a situation best just to avoid.

8. Do your research

It is amazing how many people know very little about the places they apply for. This could be seen as understandable if a person is putting out hundreds of applications, but I would argue it is better to put out half that number of good applications than just shooting them out blindly into the void.

There was a time when doing research on a potential employer was pretty difficult, but there is a lot less excuse nowadays where an Internet search can bring up a lot. I’m not saying that name-dropping the HR director will necessarily win you brownie points, but if you can mention some specifics about the employer that would be applicable to your job, that is very impressive, if only because it’s so rare. For example, you could say, “I noticed from photos on your company website that you use the HR400 series recombobulator. I did tech support on that line for two months so I would be comfortable operating them.”

As long as it’s actually true, that really helps you stand out from the crowd. Definitely don’t lie, especially about specifics. It’s too easy to catch that, and you will definitely not get the job if you are caught lying.

 

Again, these are just some things from my own personal experience and I cannot guarantee that all employers will think the same (I can guarantee they won’t, actually). However, I hope these tips help if you are looking for a job in the near future.

Do you have any other do or don’t tips for job searches that you’ve found to be true? Let me know in the comments.


Oranges for ET

FF182 Jan Marler Morrill

copyright Jan Marler Morrill

Traitor.

That’s been my nickname for six months now. Hey, I’m just a fruit seller, making a living. Maybe even a profit.

“Morning,” I say to the first alien. Twenty are lined up behind him. He slings his rifle, holds up twelve fingers, and I bag up a dozen oranges in exchange for a glowing cube which I guess is money. I’ve got 518 so far.

Later when the aliens all die, scientists discover that the Vitamin C was slowly poisoning them. Suddenly I’m a hero.

The government is really curious about those glowing cubes.

Now the real profit comes.

 


Bunny & Crackerberry

This is all true.

When I was young, I got a stuffed rabbit from a relative. For Christmas, I think, but I was too young to remember exactly when. I named it Bunny, since children have a very straightforward way of naming things.

It started out pink, but eventually was just pink-ish, since I carried it around everywhere. Through a thousand hugs and a thousand nights being gripped by a young kid as he slept, the pink all left, leaving only the –ish and Bunny has been –ish colored ever since.

Some animals come with a smile permanently pasted on their face. I have this little black bear that my sister gave me called Andre. He looks like he’s scowling if you see him straight on, but if you tip him up a little, you can see that he’s really grinning. Bunny, however, doesn’t have a smile. He may have at one time, but most of his mouth got worn off. Now it is more a look of longsuffering. He looks at you with his big eyes and small, worn out mouth, not smiling exactly, but always being there for you.

Those aren’t his original eyes, by the way. I chewed off his plastic eyes when I was young, so my mom sewed on new ones. I’m not sure how many sets he’s had, actually. I think he might have that expression for a reason.

Bunny also wears a little shirt made out of an old sock. It’s got little holes for his stubby arms but since it’s a sock, it’s always rolling up, revealing his belly. I spend half my childhood rolling it down and straightening it out. But, like that one cowlick in the back which is impervious to hairspray, gel, curses, and tearful invocations, it only takes a minute each time for that shirt to pop back up.

Bunny’s most distinctive feature is his neck. Originally, he had a normal neck, but the neck is the perfect place for a young child to hug a stuffed animal, and eventually his neck got all thin and stretched out, so it wouldn’t support his head any longer. He spends his days with his head permanently flopped over at a 30-degree angle, a longsuffering look on his –ish colored face.

You might think that Bunny has had a pretty rough life, and on some levels, you might be right, but he’s also had a pretty charmed life. After all, he has two lucky rabbit’s feet. I used to bring Bunny everywhere and we used to travel thousands of miles every summer to go visit family. Several times I left Bunny at hotels and relatives’ houses, but he always got shipped back to me, much to my relief.

Somewhere along the way, I got a stuffed dog named Crackerberry, which was good because that gave Bunny a friend. He was much more robust than Bunny and since he missed the terrors of toddlerdom that Bunny endured, Crackerberry has stood up much better over time. I used to sleep with the two of them pushed together, which was pretty much all that saved Bunny from totally disintegrating over the years.

For the last few decades, Bunny and Crackerberry have enjoyed a quiet retirement together at my parents’ house. Who knows if another generation will eventually play with them and love them, although Bunny might have gotten all the love he can handle for one lifetime and should probably sit the next generation out. Sometimes I think they might be lonely and sometimes I even wish I were young again and back in my little attic room with the two of them. But that’s life, and at least they have each other.


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