Thursday, April 25, 2013

Work It - Part 2

After I posted my tips for staying proactive during unemployment and tips for expats on the job hunt, I had a lot questions asking more specifically about preparing for interviews.

Like I said before, I'm not an interview expert! I just know what works for me.

If you are spontaneous and can fly by the seat of your pants during an interview, that's great. I envy your ability to think on your feet and still sound normal.

For me, I like preparation. And lots of it.

So I'm going to tell you some of my "secrets".

Okay, so they aren't secrets. But having this much preparation saved me from having a panic attack before some interviews. 

Hopefully you've attended interviews before. You know the types of questions they ask. I kept a log of interview questions that I thought I should have prepared better or that I saw come up multiple times. This was part of my routine of staying proactive during my months of unemployment!

Obviously, the goal isn't to write out scripts to memorize. The goal is to have a general idea for common interview questions so that you don't waste time stumbling over thoughts and ideas. Keep these in a notebook so you can review them before an interview.

Some things that I always have prepared in my notebook:  

1. Personal Anecdotes - The worst and most nerve wracking thing is when they ask "give me an example of....." and your mind goes blank. I like to have a bunch of these in my head already so there's no awkward silences or "ummm...." moments.

So in my head I always had anecdotes for:

Proudest working achievement

Proudest personal achievement

Example of when I had to work as part of a team

Example of taking leadership

And then anything specific to the job role or industry. 

2. Personality Traits - What makes you stand out from other applicants!

I definitely prepare these because I like to use unique words that will stand out in the interviewers mind. Off the top of your head it's easy to say you're "hard-working, organized, punctual." But they probably hear these words in every single interview. Think of words that are different but still bring your point across. Reliable and self driven are two of my fave words to whip out at an interview. I also like to say "bubbly" instead of "friendly". Little things like that can make you more memorable to an interviewer. But be careful with these "unique" words. Be able to back up your claims. After stating that I was self-driven once, the interviewer asked me to back up that claim with an example. Luckily, I came prepared! But don't just go blurting out adjectives about yourself if they aren't true or if you can't provide good examples. 

On the other hand, have some negative traits about yourself at the ready, too. I've never been asked that, but apparently that does come up in some interviews! Obviously, be smart about this. Turn your negatives into positives. Don't declare your laziness or bad habit of partying on weekdays to an interviewer.

3. Familiarizing - If you take anything away from this list, please let it be this!

Familiarize yourself with the company. Utilize as many resources as possible! Many companies these days have websites, Facebook pages, Twitters, and/or LinkedIn pages. I've literally had jobs ask me straight up "what do you know about the company". Obviously, you don't need to know the nitty gritty. But having a few bullet points in your head might be the difference between getting a job and getting your application thrown out. They won't take you seriously if you don't even know what company or role you're interviewing for.

Familiarize yourself with your CV/resume/references. That sounds like a given, right? But it never hurts to come fully prepared. All 4 of my interviews here in England have started "So talk me through your previous jobs on your CV." They don't want your life's story, but it's good to already know in your head your jobs in the order that they appear on your CV and key points about each (especially if you can relate those key points to the job you're interviewing for). I was also asked multiple times "What would you former manager/colleagues/co-workers say about you?" That's why it's good to familiarize yourself with your references. Have in your mind the positive characteristics these managers/colleagues/co-workers would describe you with.

And when all else fails, be yourself! Don't lie about accomplishments and act like somebody you're not. You don't want the interviewer looking like this....

What tips would you give others about interviewing either at home or in another country?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Random Fact Overload

Side note before I begin...I've been incredibly bad at writing consistently now. It's pure laziness. I apologize.

I have, however, been nominated for a Liebster Award by Ashley at For Now, Japan. No idea what that means. But I like the idea of finding other blogs based on other people's recommendations and finding out random facts about the writers! So thank you so much Ashley! She's awesome; we like to chat about being incredibly American in incredibly un-American places and having incredibly British significant others! It's great! You should definitely check out her blog.

1. Thank and link back to the blogger who presented you with the award.
2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions you were asked. 
4. Write 11 questions for your nominees.
5. Present a Liebster blog award to 2-5 other bloggers.

I think I like this the most because I love love love random facts (in case you didn't already know....)

Here's 11 random facts about me: 

1. I have the music taste of a 10 year old. I love pop music. I love Taylor Swift. I love One Direction. I love Lady Gaga. I've seen all 3 in concert. Judge me.

2. Speaking of music, I went through a phase in high school where I was so into alternative rock music and was morally against pop music. I thought I was so cool and hardcore with my green iPod mini full of The Used, My Chemical Romance, The Strokes, etc.

3. I like odd number way more than I like even numbers. Most people find that weird.

4. When I was 8 someone dared me to eat a scoop of ice cream with mustard on top of it. So I did it. I wouldn't recommend anyone to try it.

5. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people wear fake glasses that they bought for like $3 at Forever 21. Why is bad eyesight trendy?! I want to ask these people to pay for my years of eye doctors appointments for me.

6. When I lived in America I ate Chik-fil-a probably at least 3 times a week.

7. I did marching band in high school and in college/university.

8. I don't have much of a sweet tooth. Don't get me wrong; I love chocolate and I especially love sour candy. But I'd rather just have food. I'd rather not have dessert and have a second helping of food instead.

9. Growing up, I hated my first name. I used to want to go by my middle name (which is Alexis). Taylor was just really uncommon and I used to get made fun of (Taylor also looks a lot like Gaylord... 12 year olds.... so clever, aren't they? Not!) Now I love my name, especially in England where it's really uncommon as a first name!

10. I hate balloons. More specifically, I hate balloons popping.

11. Recently I've been having dreams at night about running races and doing triathlons. Maybe that means I should get to it!

Here's are the questions Ashley asked:

1. If you could be fluent in any language, what would it be and why? I've always wanted to learn Italian. I'm 50% Italian and of course I'm incredibly biased, but I think it was a great culture to be brought up on. Smelling sauce and meatballs starting at about 8 am every Sunday, the infamous wooden spoons, learning to talk with your hands (now I'm just getting stereotypical, but it's true, I talk with my hands a lot). I've just always wanted to be fluent in Italian. More recently, however, I've been drawn to Welsh. It just looks so weird! I want to learn the scamatics behind it!!

2. What is your go-to meal to prepare when you're short on time? Haha, I'm the worst cook ever. My go-to meal depends on the time of day, but probably involves some sort of bread... Like toast... Or a sandwich... Or just stuffing bread in my mouth.... Never a proper meal.

3. Is your first kiss a good memory or a bad one? Why? I'd say good memory. Not fantastic, Nicholas Sparks inspiring memory, but a good memory.

4. Do you think you're a good, average, or poor representation of your country? What makes you different? I'd like to think I represent a good, well-rounded American. People tell me all the time that they forget I'm American because apparently I don't act like one. I think I'm different because I'm really open minded. Most people in England tell me that I'm not like how they thought and American would be like.

5. Where did you go the last time you were in a car for over 3 hours? What did you do there? I honestly can't remember the last time I was in the car for over 3 hours! I'm going to say back in March when Alex and I went to the Isle of Wight for the day. He had a business meeting and I tagged along for the ride. We just drove around the island for the entire day until it was time to get back on the ferry.

6. What is book/song/movie/TV Show do you love that everyone else hates? I can't think of one! I'm normally the person that doesn't like a particular song that everybody loves (prime example: I hate Gangnam Style). Although when I was trying to find someone to come with me to the One Direction concert (I told you I saw them... Don't be shocked...) everyone was like "HELL NO." So I guess I'll go with that!

7. What is something you and your significant other have done that is different from what couples typically do? Being 100% long distance relationship until a couple months before getting married? Does that count as really different?

8. Have you ever used a mantra do get through something? If so, what was the event and what was your mantra? I wouldn't exactly say a mantra. But ever since I ran the Brighton Half I write 13 on the side of my hand whenever I run now. Whenever I get tired I look at my hand and just think "13". I don't really need any pep talks or motivational mantras anymore. When I see 13 it sort of just encompasses "I know what I'm capable of and I know who I'm doing it for."

9. What foreign food have you eaten that you never thought you would? Well this question is hard to answer for me because I'm probably the least fussy eater in the world. So there's nothing I thought I'd never ever try. I'll probably try anything at least once. (I mean, as long as it's meant to be eaten...) But for the purposes of this question I will say black pudding.

10. If you were to have/if you have children, would you want to settle down in one place or live like a nomad and see the world? Why? I think I would want to settle down. But when I was working on the cruise ship, I met an Australian family who pulled their kids out of school and traveled the world for about a year. (The cruise I met them on was their last "adventure" before going home) Meeting them definitely changed my views on settling down so permanently. I'd love to say one day I'll take my kids traveling and home school them. But I also know what it's like to grow up away from family and feel like you're missing out on a lot. I like being super close in proximity to Alex's family.

11. What is the strangest thing you have been asked/told in your new country? I got asked once if I've ever met the Kardashians. I was like....... Really?!

Here's what I want to know about you: 

1. What character from a book/movie/TV show do you feel you are most like and why?
2. If you were given the chance to live (safely) in outer space would you go? Why or why not?
3. What's your favorite kind of sandwich and what toppings do you add to it?
4. What was your longest plane journey and where did you go?
5. Do you prefer spontaneity or plans and schedules?
6. What would you name the 8th Harry Potter book if you were writing it?
7. Who taught you to ride a bicycle and do you remember learning?
8. What were the last items you purchased at the grocery store?
9. If you made a time capsule for you to open in 10 years, what items (at least 5) would you put in it?
10. Do you prefer firm pillows or squishy pillows?
11. What's something you've done that was completely out of your comfort zone?

I nominate:

Lindsay at Smells Like Sunshine

Renee at Introverted Confessions 

And anyone else who just loves random facts like I do!

Have fun! :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Can't Wait To Run

I know I'm a little late in the game, but last week was quite a week for the running community.

I mean, I can't even begin to speak about the Boston Marathon. I may never cross a starting line or a finish line of the Boston Marathon, or any marathon for that matter. But I cried watching the coverage of the bombing.

And in my head all I could think was "how dare you." I didn't even know who I was speaking to at the time, whether it was an angry group of people or terrorists or whoever. I just wanted to go up to them and say "how dare you." How dare you ruin this moment for these runners and spectators. How dare you ruin some of these people's lives.

How dare you turn one of the happiest places on earth, a finish line, into a crime scene. I always said that running, training, racing, are things that are a part of you that nobody can take away. You can take away any medal or running shoes or even the free race t-shirt. But nobody could ever take away the part of you where running has left it's mark of happiness. And you, whoever you are, managed to do just that. How dare you.

It may not look like much, but it's so much more than a finish line

It's all I kept saying that night. And I realize now how dramatic it sounds. But so many other people who clearly have a much better way with words than I do were saying such amazing things. About the finish line being such a great place. About feeling like someone hurt a member of their family by hurting other runners. About never losing their spirit or faith in humanity.

Whoever you are, how dare you mess with runners.

I'm never this dramatic or ranty. But I just needed that out there.

And then there was the London Marathon. It made me itch with anticipation for my next run. Watching the unconditional respect for Boston, for everyone around them, for volunteers, for people just holding up a sign. While the beginning of the week was all fire and rage, watching the London Marathon coverage was like a breath of fresh air. 

I always said I want to do a marathon one day. It won't be this year and it might not be next year. But one day I'll do a marathon. And whichever one it is, I can't wait to run it.

And whichever my next race is, I can't wait to run that either.

And my group run tomorrow night, no matter how tired I am after work, I can't wait to run that, too.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What I Bring To The Table

Hi! How's life been treating you? I feel like I haven't had a whimsy post in a while. So here we go.

The other day at work we were randomly talking about what we all bring to the table. Our talents. What we're brag worthy of. I mean, we all have things that are particularly brag worthy in the best sense of the word. Things that are unique.

So I had a little think. I thought I'd share 5 things that I think I bring to the table with you guys, so in case any situation arises where I'd need to bring these things to the table, you know who to contact.

1. Noticing movie editing mistakes - I am fantastic at pointing out movie/TV show mistakes. Don't understand what that means? Basically, here's a prime example. So George from Movie XYZ puts his cup down on top of a napkin on the table, then the shot changes to the other side of the table and the napkin is gone from under the cup. That's a movie editing mistake. This is due to the multiple takes that the actors obviously have to do. And I am the asshole that points out these mistakes without fail. I find mistakes in every movie without even trying. It's a natural ability, I swear. People hate watching movies with me because I just shout "MISTAKE" when I see them. (Sorry in advance if you ever have to watch a movie with me.)

2. Eating things that are pickled - I know, it's gross. But it's a gift that I utilise quite often. I'd probably try anything if it was pickled. If there's ever situation where picked onions/eggs/beans/asparagus needs to be eaten, I'm your girl.

3. Looking at pictures of cats online - What can I say? I am a champion cat picture admirer. I have "I Can Has Cheezburger" bookmarked. And then someone invented Pinterest, and I have a cat board. Yep, I definitely bring crazy cat lady to the table.

4. Telling pointless stories - You know how you were talking about baking a cake and then I started saying something that I thought was relevant but ending up going off on a tangent about that one time my friend accidentally flung a bit of salami at a vegetarian? Yep, that's what my friends and family call a "Taylor story." And their indifference to my pointless stories is probably why I started a blog.

5. Re-reading books - I'm probably better at re-reading my favourite books than I am at reading new ones. I have about 5 series right now that I can pick up at any moment and just obsess over. I'd probably rather re-read one of those than have "the misfortune" of starting something new. I love re-reading my favourite parts. I love re-reading and seeing foreshadowing or correlations or picking up on new things I didn't see the first time. I'm really really ridiculously good at re-reading, but sometimes just reading something new is like pulling teeth.

So that is what I bring to the table. These are my brag worthy talents and I am very proud to call myself a pickled loving, pointless story telling, movie mistake shouting, cat picture admiring, re-reader!

What sorts of talents do you bring to the table? What random talents do you consider "brag worthy" or "at the professional level"?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Daily Questions

Recently I've been meeting more and more people.

That sounds weird. But now that I'm out and about more because of work, Saturday park runs, and Monday night group runs, I'm interacting with more people who are intrigued by my desire to live in England.

And they tend to ask me the most ridiculous questions. But these ridiculous questions are pretty consistent across the board. These are questions I get asked about once a day at least. Which makes me wonder where these people's priorities are!

I don't know if any other expats get asked these ridiculous questions as well, so I thought I'd share both the questions (and answers, in case anyone was too shy to ask!)

Why are earth did you move here from Florida?!

And yes that mixture of question mark and exclamation point is completely necessary. I probably get asked this the most. It's a fair enough question. It's the passion that they put into it that is the most hilarious. It's like they're instead asking "are you out of your mind?"

And I really don't think I need to go into detail here on why I moved. It's pretty obvious now, isn't it?

It wasn't the weather.

So you went to a real American high school? / Is high school just like the movies/TV shows?

Yes I went to high school... In America... And it was in fact real...

I always say high school is definitely not like movies/TV shows. Maybe for some people 90210 and The OC portrayed their lives perfectly. However, I was in marching band and AP classes. So no, high school is not all about standing around at your locker for 7 hours of the day and wearing pink on Wednesdays. At least not for me anyway!

This is me in high school senior year. We wore marching band polo shirts on Friday. And no, don't quote American Pie at me please. 

What do you think of our food portions compared to America's? 

I never know how to seriously respond to this. I mean, I don't really notice a massive difference except when it comes to like specified or set sizes. (So like, a large drink at McDonald's in England is an American medium, a medium drink is an American small, etc.) But it's not like I'm walking around going "OMG I'm so hungry! If only British portions were bigger!!" Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but I don't eat Cheesecake Factory sized food all day everyday. The only thing I miss about the food industry in general is FREE REFILLS. It's an epic concept.

I've also been asked....... 

Do Americans understand sarcasm? (No..... Not one bit.)
Have you met the Kardashians? (Oh gawd no.)
Does it snow in America? (Yes.)
Do you love Wal-mart? (Absolutely not.)

My shining moment in question asking was when a 9 year old asked if I was Hannah Montana because she never met anyone with an American accent before. No, I'm not Hannah Montana. But I was willing to sing Best of Both Worlds to her if she desired. (She didn't.) 

Anyone else get asked funny/random questions??

Monday, April 8, 2013

6 Month Expat Check In

Hello! Happy Monday! (Actually, now that I'm working full time, I know that there's really no such thing as a happy Monday.... Apologies....)

So all of last week I was so excited for Friday. Not only was it Friday (TGIF!), but it was also my 6 month anniversary of moving to England! I had big plans of celebrating this day. And then Friday rolled around and I didn't remember until about 9 PM! Talk about anticlimactic.

But I did remember that back in September, I wrote about my great expectations for my big move across the pond.

Obviously, I have to check in and see how these are doing 6 months down the line!

Learn to drive on the other side of the road... and the other side of the car...

Look! How very strange!

Well, remember that one time I learned to drive? Yeah... That's been the only time so far. I've been busy. Alex has been busy. The weather has been crap. It's okay. I don't plan on getting a car any time soon, if ever. But I'd still love to get back out there and try again! (When I say "get back out there", I mean "get back to the abandoned lot where I can't destroy anything.")

Run more (and in colder weather). Well, that did happen. I had a half marathon to train for, after all! I was running about 4 times a week at one point. Now, I've been super lazy about running. Oops. And the running in colder weather has been inevitable! So that's definitely happened. I need to get back into a routine and train for something....

Race more.

I actually look like I know what I'm doing here. I'm probably thinking "I want Nandos" or something.

Yep, did that! I've done 4 races in England so far, so I've more than doubled my amount of races that I did in America. I do actually love racing. The trouble is finding races close-ish to me. I feel like they skimp on races here. (Can anyone recommend any races in the south of England??)

Join a gym and/or running club. I joined a running club! Best. Decision. Ever. I'd recommend it to anyone regardless of whether you're an expat or new to an area or not. I haven't joined a gym, but I have looked into it. I think I will actually join one within the next month or so now that I'm working.

Understand the London Underground. Yes. I understand the tube and have used it (by myself! Just this past Saturday actually!!) I'm so very proud of my abilities.

Understand public transportation in general. I've taken trains on my own and stuff. Does that count?? I'm going to say it does.

Spell words with u's and s's and y's and such.

Where's the Z?!

This is honestly an epic fail. I spell things like an American. From now on, I'll be trying my hardest to spell things "properly".

Learn more about the Alex. When I wrote my original expectations list, I wrote "sometimes at random moments, I find myself going 'Hmm... I wonder if he likes blue cheese.'" I can now confirm I know he likes blue cheese. You're welcome for that fun fact.

Be a close knit family. I really wanted to embrace the proximity of Alex's family to each other. I guess I kind of have...? I don't know where I was going with this expectation. Nobody hates me yet. But I also let them freely call me a yank and talk about that time I said the word shit in front of Grandma. (It slipped out. I promised I am ashamed still) So we're close!

Keep in touch with the other side of the pond as much as possible. Skype and Whatsapp are amazing things. So are normal phones, when people remember how to use them!

The end.

I think these 6 months have gone by both slowly and quickly. It feels like I've been here ages. And 6 months sounds like an incredibly long time. But time has also flown by! It's April! (In case you didn't know!) And I feel like I've done a lot in the time that I've been here!

Can't wait for the next 6 months!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Eastleigh 10K Race Recap

Hey! I did another 10K!

I thought this as a cool part of the free t-shirt! Gotta love race t-shirts. This does not do the color justice. It looks in the pic that it's school bus yellow. It's actually florescent highlighter yellow. I'm not even kidding.

So I'm a bit late in posting this. I started my new job last week so I took a week off from writing until I could get into a good routine. (Side note, perfect time to start a new job in England. 4 day week. 4 day weekend due to TWO bank holidays. And then another 4 day week. I'm spoiled.)

I'll keep the recap short and sweet.  

Time was 1:04:28.

No PR, but overall I think this was the best 10K I've run out of my 3. I'm counting it as a personal PR (personal personal record? Whatever.) for several reasons.

Even though my time was about a minute slower than the last 10K I did, I think this course was a lot more accurate for distance. Also, all of my splits in this race were pretty consistent. I didn't really negative split, but I didn't positive split either. My splits kind of looked like a bell curve to be honest. (Bell Curve... What a dork... Statistics was always my best subject in high school/college!)

There was a hill between miles 2 and 3 if I remember correctly, and I felt like I conquered that like a champ. It wasn't particularly steep, but it was long and gradual. And honestly, sometimes those are worse. But I powered forward and felt strong going up it.

Oh and not to mention I did this entire race without music! I didn't want to do it; I really like running with music! And I always thought I was so dependent on my music to keep me going. But everyone was saying how strict they were with the "no music or headphones" rule. So I didn't use my iPod for fear of getting disqualified. And I didn't hate it! It's good to know I can run 6.2 miles without some jams keeping me going. 

Lastly, I loved this race because over 130 members of my running club ran it! We took a big group photo before it started. Even though I'm in the slower portion of the club, it didn't really feel like it mattered. And that felt good. Other members were constantly cheering everyone else on, especially at the end. It was some of the best camaraderie I've ever seen.

Do you like running racing with people you know or do you prefer to go at it alone? Do you run with or without music?