Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tips for Interviewing with Me

Unfortunately, I have to interview people periodically.  I use the word unfortunately because that usually means that one of our great employees at Community Partners of Dallas has left us.  And that is unfortunate.  I really love all of the people with whom I work and when someone leaves, it is sad for me.  But, I am always happy to have some fresh blood – and a new person who hasn’t heard all my stories nor been the recipient of my sage advice!
So back to interviewing... 
I thought I’d give you some tips for applying for a job and interviewing.  It’s all stuff that you’ve probably heard before, but these are my tips, so if you’re interviewing with me, this is the way to stand out from the pack:
Before the Interview
  1. Do what the job notice says to do.  If it says to send an email with a cover letter with your salary requirements and resume, do that.  As a small employer with no HR department, I am the one looking at hundreds of emails for every job we post.  Don’t give me a reason to just delete you right off the bat.
  2. For me, it is the cover letter that interests me in even looking at the resume.  The one paragraph cover letter referring me to your resume is probably not going to get you an interview. 
  3. Show me that you have done a little research in your letter – mention something about the agency, me, or why you would like to work for me.  Also, be sure that you try to find the name of the person to whom you are applying if possible.  Since my work email is,  any applicant can easily go to our website and find out who I am, my last name, and my job title.  I know that this is not always easy at a larger company, but just show the potential employer that you tried.
  4. If you are called for the interview, don’t make the person who called to set the appointment give you directions to the agency.  Let them give you the address, but that is all you need.  This is the digital age – you can look up the directions to get yourself there on time.  If you are able, do a practice drive-by in advance.  Of course, if you have trouble finding us or are lost, please call.
At the Interview
  1. Don’t come too early.  I know, I know – they told all of us in school to arrive 30 minutes early, but I disagree.  I really like it when the person comes on time or maybe just 3 minutes early.  Certainly don’t be late – that is a killer.
  2. CPD is a super-casual place to work.  Does that mean you should interview that way?  Absolutely not.  Come in business casual.  No flip flops.  No low-cut or too tight clothing.  I always wear a jacket and pants to conduct our interviews. 
  3. Be yourself – or maybe a notch or two better.  The most recent person that I hired, Emily Loper (our new Program Director), came back with the best line ever when I went to get her from our reception area.  It was my birthday that week and my co-workers had surprised me by decorating my office and providing me with a crown and sash to wear.  We had just eaten birthday cake, so I was still wearing my crown.  I greeted Emily by saying “I guess you never expected you’d be interviewed by someone in a crown” to which she quickly responded “Gee, I’d hoped that I would be!”  Now, did this alone land Emily the job?  No.  But it sure helped her to stand out and get noticed. 
  4. Don't bad mouth your current or former employers or bosses.  It would be really hard for me to hire someone who did that.  Back when I was younger and interviewing, people always liked to ask why I left each job on my resume (I don't really do this for people I'm interviewing, but I might, so don't hold me to it!).  Anyway, I did have one job that I quit after 1 year, and I always got asked about it.  Of course, what I wanted to say was that the boss was crazy and the company was horrible, but the most I ever said was that "Well, I stayed in that job longer than anyone ever had before."  That always seemed to satisfy people!
  5. Back to research – know what we do at CPD.  Be ready to ask a few (but not too many) questions.  Don’t ask me about salary and benefits at the first interview – unless I bring it up.  We will discuss that when I offer you the job.  Emily did another great thing at her interview.  She told me that she read my blog. The other people I interviewed may have read it too, but if they did they didn’t tell me.  You not only have to do your research, you have to make sure that I know that you did your research!
I know that many people won’t agree with all this advice – and that is ok.  These are tips for a successful interview with me.  And I hope that I won’t be interviewing anyone soon.  I’m sick of good-byes.
P.S.  My friend Tami Cannizzaro writes a great blog called Tales of the Terminated and I know that she has addressed a lot of this  -- check it out at

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Out of Order Life

I love a routine.  I love my own routines and I love hearing about other people’s – you know, how they take off their makeup, read the newspaper, make their bed, really just anything.  My friend Joe Clark and I can happily spend an hour going over how each of us makes our oatmeal.  Joe has a true process -- doubles the recipe, toasts the oatmeal, freezes, and more that I cannot remember.  On our recent vacation, I explained my morning smoothie process starting with, “First, I get out of bed, walk downstairs, then…”  I know that it is hard to believe that Joe listened with rapt attention, but he really did.  A systematic, orderly, routine process is fun.
So, it really messed me up recently when I forgot to put my Kerastace leave-in conditioner and oleo relax on my hair prior to the blow dry.  I washed and conditioned (I use Davines smoothing shampoo and conditioner), got out of the shower, heard something on The Today Show that I wanted to see in the bedroom (I’m sure that this is what messed up my routine), then just came back in and started blow drying my hair.  While I was drying I could tell that the hair didn’t feel the same, but I didn’t yet realize what had gone so wrong.  I finished drying and squeezed the conditioner and oleo relax into my hand and put it into the dry hair – and that was when I realized my mistake.  Horrors.
NOTE:  One great benefit to our hot summer weather in Dallas is low humidity.  Low Humidity = Good Hair.
ANOTHER NOTE:  I use really expensive stuff on my hair.  I use drug store soap and makeup, but my hair enjoys the best.  It is a splurge, but man that stuff works to make frizzy, curly hair behave.
Anyway, this hair fiasco got me thinking about order in processes.  There is a traditional order to life.  The lucky ones of us were born to 2 parents who planned for and who wanted us.  We grew up in a decent home with a brother or sister or two, went to school until we were 18, headed off to college, graduated, got married, had kids, and the cycle continued.  But sometimes this order is changed.
Some kids in Dallas County aren’t born to parents who wanted them and once the kids arrive, that doesn’t change.  To some parents, finding the next high is more important than getting a kid off to school.  Some kids are born to other kids.  Many kids don’t graduate from school and college is as close to their reality as the moon. 
The traditional order is twisted.  The routine, the order, the process is off.  But the kids can’t blame The Today Show. 
BUT, just because a kid is born into an out-of-order life, he can still be successful.  And that is what we are trying to help ensure every day at Community Partners of Dallas.  Her parents may have loved heroin more than they loved her, but with help and support from a foster parent or a relative, that little girl will succeed.  And we can help that new family thrive.  We can help change the order.
P.S.  My hair turned out totally fine that day, in fact Joanna said she thought I was having a good hair day that day.   Routines can change.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Repost of "Not Advice from Your Mom -- 10 Tips for Young Women"

I originally wrote this post back in December of 2010.  It has been one of my more popular ones and what with the kids off to college and beyond, I thought it might be helpful. 

Hope so -- Paige

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Not Advice From Your Mom -- 10 Tips for Young Women

If you know me, you probably know that I like to give advice. 
So does my mom.  Even when you don’t want to hear it and she’s told you that a hundred times and I am an adult, and yes, I know you think I don’t wear enough blush, and
I digress.
As you might imagine, as the President and CEO of a small non-profit agency, I have lots of young women as co-workers.  At Community Partners of Dallas, we have 11 employees and numerous college and high school interns throughout the year.  These women are some of the best and brightest in the world and I’d put them up against any other team in town – they’d win in talent, creativity, work ethic, congeniality, trustworthiness, and beauty. 
CPD’s women don’t need a lot of advice.  I still give it.  I’m going to give some to you too.  Take it or leave it.
  1. Believe in something.
  2. Family comes before work.
  3. Really think before you get that tattoo and/or tongue piercing.
  4. Get a college degree.
  5. When you start working, do everything you can to make your boss’ life easier.
  6. Read for pleasure.
  7. Read the newspaper.
  8. Join the Junior League of Dallas or your local woman’s volunteer organization.
  9. When you move to a new apartment or home, invite all your neighbors over for a drop-by party.    I always did a breakfast on a Saturday from 8:30 until 10:30.  It is a cheap party without liquor.  Coffee from Starbucks, breakfast casseroles, donut holes, and OJ with cute paper plates and napkins.  You’ll be surprised how much this will help you connect.
  10. Smile and laugh.  A lot.
Advice is cheap.  Take it or leave it.
P.S.  I’d love your advice too, so comment.  Mom is on advice-break.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Smile as Big as Texas

I saw a smile as big as Texas last night.  It was on a little 3-year-old boy’s face named Ernest.  Ernest and his family were with me last night at GattiTown, along with a whole bunch of other kids, their families, and CPS caseworkers.  Here’s the story:

I have worked for Community Partners of Dallas for almost 10 years and in that time I have come to know LOTS of CPS caseworkers.  Most CPS caseworkers don’t stay with CPS – in fact they used to tell me that 60% of new caseworkers left before they even completed 6 months on the job.  It’s tough work and those who do stay for a few years often get moved up into supervisory roles.
Note:  Not all caseworkers want to move into supervisory roles – I’ve talked to some who moved up and then came back to casework because of the huge amounts of paperwork and the added stress. While a single caseworker may have 25-50 cases at a time, a supervisor has 8 caseworkers under them – all with 20-50 cases.  Holding that many young lives in your hands is terrifying.
Anyway, I tell you this to let you know that when a supervisor calls me and wants to meet with me about something – and the call is from someone I have known for years as both a caseworker and supervisor – I get interested immediately.  I mean, if I’ve known this person since I’ve been working with CPS, they are good.  They’ve stuck it out.  They know what they are talking about.
So a few months ago my friend Bobby, a CPS supervisor, called me and asked to have a meeting.  With him, he brought a well thought out written proposal (my little grant-writer’s heart fluttered).  Bobby and his team wanted to celebrate some successful families – those with whom they had worked and who had come out on the other side, better than before.  Families who had their lives turned upside down with an investigation of child abuse, but who had worked with their caseworker, gone to parenting classes,  and had proven that they could be successful parents.  Some were families where the children had been permanently removed from their birth parents and placed with loving relatives.  Successful families.
So instead of focusing on what most people think of when they think about CPS – tearing families apart – this event would be celebrating families who were a success.
Bobby brought us this great idea and it was one that our board at CPD loved.  And luckily for us, one of our board members is the owner of GattiTown, Mr. Paul Griffiths.  When I asked Paul and his wife Aimee if they would be willing to host this event, they said yes immediately.  What a HUGE gift they gave to us and to those families last night!  After a little presentation for each family, the pizza bar was opened and the games and rides were free to our guests.
Our Development VP, Joanna Clarke, and I just stood in the middle of the midway room watching the kids run around with tons of prize tickets, parents interacting with their kids and enjoying themselves, and even caseworkers running into each other in the bumper cars and laughing hysterically.  Joanna and Ernest even got me to ride the Frog Hopper ride – and I screamed more than any of the kids.
Toward the end of the night, Paul and I were standing in the midway, just taking it all in, and Bobby came over to once again thank us.  Bobby explained that one of the families in particular lived at a very low socio-economic level and they just would never have been able to have a night like this – not in their wildest dreams.
A wildest dream and a smile as big as Texas.  What a night.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Complaint Game

My electricity went off at least 8 times last night.  At 106+ degrees in Dallas, I guess that is understandable. 
I will be writing a letter to the mayor to ask him to contact Oncor and whoever else is in charge of these problems to try to get this fixed.  My side of our block goes out every single time there is a weather-based emergency, and our neighbors across the street seem to stay on.  My mother’s house never goes out.  It is such a pain. 
I was on twitter and Facebook last night complaining to everyone who would listen about this injustice.  Complaining is, of course, the best part of the fun of enduring a “hardship” – it reminds me of my favorite line from Steel Magnolias – “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, come sit next to me.” 
Of course, I know that this power outage is nothing in the grand scheme of things.  As Americans, we have such a high quality of life compared to the rest of the world.  But if my neighbors across the street got to watch Hell’s Kitchen in its entirety, then damn it, I should get to too. 
Tell that to Lisa and Pete.  They are teens who have never had a stable home life.  They’ve been homeless many times.  They have moved around from foster home to foster home.  They have moved around from group home to group home.
Don’t you know that they see other kids at the mall with credit cards and designer shoes and think, if they can have that, why can’t I? 
Don’t you know that they see other kids at school with parents who care enough to attend the school play or the football game and think, why didn’t I end up with parents like that?
My electricity may go out again tonight, and I’ll still be complaining about it to whoever will listen.  But I also know that Lisa and Pete have got me beat.