Got a job

Speaking of job interviews, I just accepted a position with AARP as senior editor of digital content. I start May 8. It’s going to be quite a change to go from working for a small startup filled with millennials to a huge organization staffed full of boomers, but I’m excited about the challenge and am happy to get back to work. Can’t wait.

Get a job

I’ve been on both sides of the interview table at different times in my career, but in the last three years, I’ve probably interviewed 80 job candidates for various openings. And here’s the amazing thing: Most of them disqualified themselves fairly quickly.

This wasn’t because of any interview trickery. It was for a simple reason: They didn’t adequately prepare for the interview — if they prepared at all.

Nothing annoyed me more as a hiring manager than dealing with unprepared interviewees. They not only wasted my time, but also assured I’d have to spend yet still again more time digging up new candidates.

But it’s never been easier to prep for a job interview. Companies have websites that clue you in to their values; job sites such as Glassdoor can give you a strong idea of the questions that will be asked; there are numerous resources that will help you prepare for what’s coming. If you don’t take advantage of this intelligence, you’re probably toast. It’s that simple.

Want to succeed at a job interview? Here are a few hints:

Know the product. I last worked at a business publishing company that put out more than a dozen daily newsletters and had a similar number of websites. All of those were available to the public. Yet when I started asking candidates about the publications, easily a third copped to never reading them, or just glancing them over.

Look, you’re going to be asked how you can improve the product. How can you answer that question if you don’t even know the product? Why would I hire you if you care so little about my product?

Prep for the obvious questions. “What’s your ideal job?” I often ask. Blank stares are a regular response.

C’mon, that’s a softball. Do a Google search on “common job interview questions” and prepare accordingly. Check out Glassdoor to find out what specific questions get asked during job interviews at your potential employer.

Look at the freakin’ interviewer. There have been times when I’ve felt like Quasimodo during a job interview, as the interviewee moved into a deep state of shoegazing or wall-staring because of my apparent and unsuspected loathsomeness. What you’re really telling me is that you can’t concentrate.

Does it bother you to look people in the eyes? Here’s a tip I got long ago: Look at one eye, not both. They won’t know the difference and it often solves that feeling of discomfort some folks feel when they look at someone this way.

Show some enthusiasm. Do you want to work at a given company? Tell the interviewer! Say it with me: “I really want to work here.” It’s an incredibly powerful statement. Enthusiasm at an interview is a big harbinger of workplace success for a candidate, in my experience. If you want the job, ask for the job! And here’s a related caveat:

Don’t be a jerk. I am on the cusp of getting a position that fell my way in part because a previous candidate turned off hiring managers with his attitude at the job interview. This happens all of the time! Many companies enforce the No Asshole Rule in hiring, and when I made that part of my hiring creed, I got employees who didn’t pollute the workplace.

Dress the part. My last job was at a workplace with a casual dress code. That didn’t mean I wanted you to show up for an interview with jeans and a flannel shirt. Wear business attire to an interview.

None of these points seem very hard, do they? Yet I’d estimate two-thirds of the job candidates I interviewed over the last three years disqualified themselves because they couldn’t follow these simple steps. To put it another way: You’re already ahead of 66% of candidates just by taking a little time to follow these. The rest is up to you.

And here’s a final hint: If I interview you for a job and you tell me you’ve read this post, I’m going to be impressed. It means you did some homework. I hire people who do their homework.

5 common Washington myths

1. People in Washington don’t understand “Real America.” In reality, this is an area of people who used to live somewhere else, often in those places that love to refer to themselves “flyover county” because they think we do (I don’t think I’ve ever heard this phrase from a Washingtonian). People move here because this is where the work is — in tech, in journalism, in law, and yes, in politics. But if you live elsewhere and buy the whole “clueless Washington people” myth, ask yourself: Do you know anyone who lives here? I bet you do. In fact, I bet you know several folks who live here and moved here to pursue a career. I bet they’re doing pretty well.

2. People in Washington are lazy and privileged. In reality, people here work incredibly hard. This is an area overstuffed with Type A personalities — so much that I think it actually hurts the quality of life. Example: If you run into some minor issue at a grocery store here, probably 18 customers or so will try to take charge of the situation — and they often eventually turn on each other. And as far as privilege: Yes, this is one of best-paying places in the country. It’s also one of the most expensive. Those salaries don’t get you that far ahead when the median cost of a home here is over half a million bucks (and that is just the beginning). And jobs here are competitive — if you want to be lazy, someone is going to take your job.

3. People in Washington are all a bunch of liberals. Well, OK, most of ’em are Democrats, but people who spout this don’t make the distinction any more between “Democrats” and “liberals.” However, on this front, we’re not different than people in most of the largest metro areas of this country, including large metro areas in solidly red states. A lot of these metros feature high salaries, growing economies, diverse cultures, low crime (my home town of Jefferson City, Mo. has a crime rate 25% higher than the national average; my current home of Alexandria, Va. has a rate 28% lower than the national average, according to and on and on and on. There’s probably not all that much that’s different about living here when compared to many successful big cities.

4. People in Washington don’t think about other people. Oh, yes, we do. We think about you all of the time. We wonder, for example, why so many of you reject demonstrable facts so readily these days. We wonder why you are paying so little attention to how your government actually functions. We also wonder why we continue to subsidize and support the people who insult and berate us the loudest, because they often are from areas that benefit the most from the money we pay.

5. “We need to drain the swamp.” Washington isn’t built on a swamp. Why would someone tell you this falsehood? Anyway, swamps are beautiful and help protect against flooding. Here’s a little reality check on this front, and how it relates to most people who work here.

…And a little more baseball

I was at the not-sold-out Nats Park for the opening of the 2017 baseball season, in which the Nats came from behind to win and looked good doing it. It’s one of the hundreds of games I’ve attended in my life, and I’ve been lucky enough to see some fantastic (if not always winning) baseball moments.

I’ve seen big-league games in 10 parks and minor-league games in five more. But here are the games that stood out the most:

1. Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS between the Nats and the Cardinals. This is the game in which Jayson Werth hit that game-winning homer after an epic at-bat. That was easily the most thrilling sports moment I’ve ever witnessed in person.

2. Game 1 of the 1982 World Series between the Cardinals and the then-American-League Milwaukee Brewers. I grew up in Missouri as a huge Cardinals fan and fell into these tickets unexpectedly at the last minute. The Cards were crushed, 10-0, but it didn’t matter because they won the Series anyway. It was their first Series win of my adult life; I’m old enough to remember the 1967 and 1968 teams as a kid, and those teams sealed my lifelong fandom with the game.

3. Stephen Strasburg’s first start.
Yes, it was all the way back in 2010 and he looked every bit like a future Hall of Famer, striking out 14 and electrifying the park in a way I’ve never seen during the regular season. By season’s end, he had blown out his elbow, starting the path that led to him being unavailable for that 2012 postseason. To this day, I wonder if that cost the Nats a World Series visit.

4. The end of ‘The Streak.’ Some friends invited us to Just Another O’s Game late in the 1998 season. The Nats didn’t exist yet and the O’s were playing out the string against the Yankees.

But Ripken didn’t come out for the game. He’d gone to his manager and asked to end The Streak — he had played in 2,632 consecutive games, a major league record by more than 500 games. I remember the Yankees all coming out of their dugout to tip their hats to Ripken, and I remember him circling outfield between innings late in the game to shake hands with fans. And just like that, The Streak was over.

5. The ‘Oh, God’ Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. Being a Washington sports fan will break your heart. I stlil can’t discuss the details of this game. I can’t. I can’t. Read about it for yourself.

Some tips for Nats Park visitors

This is the reality of Nats Park: Tourists sometimes tie their DC visits to the time their home baseball team is visiting here, and many local fans who do come to the park are casual at best. As a result, you might be visiting there on a very irregular basis, or you’re coming to the park for the first time. I’m here to help.

Nats Park is a great place for the casual fan. It may have little of the “cathedral of baseball” feel that you get at Fenway or Wrigley, or even newer parks like PNC in Pittsburgh or AT&T in San Francisco,  but it does have its advantages. Sightlines are fantastic from most seats, tickets are generally easy to acquire, you probably won’t get any crap for showing up in your home team’s gear (everyone here is from somewhere else and people are nice), and ballpark food is decent, if not memorable. Here’s a few tips on coming to the park:

1. TAKE THE SUBWAY. Parking is poor and is obscenely expensive, traffic is often awful and you’re in an Eastern city with decent public transportation (despite Metro’s current woes). Take the subway and enjoy it. You’ll be able to chat up other fans — most Nats fans on the train will be happy to talk to you. And everyone here is accustomed to tourists, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. The walk from the Navy Yard Metro stop into Nats Park is one of the best things about the experience here. It’s a kind of a cattle chute of hawkers, scalpers, hot dog merchants and fans. You don’t see that sort of thing elsewhere.

2. WALK AROUND. Few parks have as many great standing room sightlines as Nats Park. In the last few games, I’ve bought tickets on the top 400 level along the baselines or behind home, then watched part of the games from my seat and part of the games from the many good standing room viewpoints around the park. Some of them include chest-level lean-to shelving that is the perfect place to put a hot dog and a beer and enjoy a couple of innings. There are great views of the Anacostia River from the long ramp that goes up the park on the third-base side, and there’s also a really good view of the Capitol if you head down the same side on the 300 level.

3. CHECK THIRD-PARTY TICKET SITES. Tickets often are sold *below* list here on third-party sites, especially early in the season. I use SeatGeek these days because you can set it to disclose any fees up front, it searches multiple sites and StubHub now throws on an absurd level of fees that aren’t disclosed until checkout. It’s not unusual to get a decent seat for less than $10 through May here if you buy it through a third-party site.

4. THERE NOW ARE GOOD RESTAURANTS AND HOTELS NEARBY. The construction of Nats Park was a key part of the redevelopment of the Southwest/Southeast waterfront, and when the park opened, the surrounding area was a wasteland of concrete plants, garbage truck parking and transmission shops. But there’s been a bunch of development in recent years, and there are good restaurants and hangout spots within easy distance of the park. (Still, the closest joint to the park is a Buffalo Wild Wings, so not everything is perfect.)

5. FOOD HERE IS OK, NOT GREAT. I’ve never been a fan of Ben’s Chili Bowl, but the Ben’s chili half smoke is the best-known “local” food at the park. My personal fave dish is the burnt-ends-and-mac-and-cheese dish you can get at Blue Smoke on the 200 level, but that varies a lot in quality from game to game and it is *very* heavy. There are also decent Virginia ham and chicken biscuits available at a couple of locations, a forgettable crabcake and some unusual options (Greek food or Pad Thai). The Taste of the Majors stands, which offer the favorites of other ballparks, often provide some of the best food in the park. There are some decent microbrews available and if you dig around, you can find a few other dishes that aren’t bad. The Nats Dogs are completely forgettable but also completely OK. The Curly W soft pretzels are fun but just like every other soft pretzel you’ve ever had except for the shape.

6. SOMETIMES YOU CAN MAKE IT A TWO-FER. Camden Yards in Baltimore is only about 45 miles away. It *is* a cathedral of baseball, with smarter/more dedicated fans and a tremendous setting. Not all of the seats are great — they all face directly ahead, so if you sit along the foul lines past first or third base, you spend the whole game twisted in your seat — but it has better food and the Inner Harbor, along with a spectacular setting that features the C&O Warehouse. It also has AL East baseball, so you can see the O’s play better teams overall than you may see roll through DC on a regular basis these days. If you’re a big baseball fan, definitely check it out if you can.

Hopefully, this helps. Enjoy your time at Nats Park. It may not make a massive impression but it’s still a good place to see a game.