Does this look like good business to you? Photo via Techcrunch

A couple of evenings ago, I went to a little spot around the corner from my house, here in the far north side of Chicago.  It’s a friendly little place, and I like it quite a bit — their prices are fair, their food is decent, and some of the folks on staff recognize me and say ‘hi’ when I come in.  What’s even better is that they have a nice selection of microbrews, scotches, and even some really rare stuff from time to time.

So, I’m sitting at the bar, enjoying a burger and a Guinness, and a fellow comes in and stands next to me while he collects his order from the bartender.  He’d ordered a to-go order of some sort of food, and I noticed he was using a Groupon to help pay for it.

“So,” I asked the bartender, “what are your thoughts on the whole Groupon thing?”

The bartender surprised me with his reply.  “It may well put us out of business,” he said.

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Stacks of resumes, CC-licensed image by woodley wonderworks, via Flickr

As I’ve posted below, I’ve left my position as IT Specialist/Web Developer at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers to start my new gig with the American Bar Association Journal.

I made it clear to my outgoing employers that I wanted to do everything I could to make the transition to the next person as seamless and pain-free as possible.  Since they needed to hire a replacement, and I’m the only one with lots of knowledge about technical work, and insight into the brain of techs, I was charged with sifting through the résumés and determining who might be a good fit, and who we didn’t need to bother talking with.

So I’ve been looking at a lot of résumés, and I’ve been assisting in the interview process, and I’ve learned a few things about job hunting.  Most of these are common knowledge, but some might be non-obvious, so take it for what it’s worth to you.

Your résumé is important.  Don’t skimp on the time you spend on it. A no-brainer, right?  But you’d be surprised about how many résumés don’t seem to have had even one proofreading.  Your résumé is the first and most important document the person doing the hiring is going to be looking for.  At least, it was for me.  Make sure your current address and phone number are there, at the top.  Are you applying for a web job?  Include a URL for your personal site, and your facebook/twitter if you use them.  If I’m interested in you, I’m going to google you and find that stuff anyhow.  Don’t have a personal web site?  Then you have no business applying for a web job.  Seriously.

Don’t use one of the built-in templates in Microsoft Word to make your résumé. They don’t look good, and everyone else uses them.  It says, “Hey, I know how to use wizards, but I don’t care enough about this to really spend the time to make it myself, so I’ll be content to look like everyone else.”

On cover letters: Really, shouldn’t we be calling them “cover emails” these days?  Does anyone send a resume in by mail anymore?  First rule: Don’t copy and paste the same cover letter for every job you apply for. Second rule:  CHECK YOUR SPELLING AND GRAMMAR.  Third rule: A bad cover letter won’t keep me from calling you if your résumé is good, but a really good cover letter might get you an interview, even if your résumé isn’t so good.

Guess what?  I don’t need to know every model of Cisco switch you’ve ever worked with.  Familiarity with Cisco hardware is sufficient.

If your educational background includes a school which advertises during re-runs of Judge Judy, and your current job is working at a deli counter at a supermarket, I’m probably not going to believe you have the technical skills I’m looking for.

During the interview, I know you’re nervous, and you’re trying to make a good impression. But if you’re relaxed and conversational, I’m going to like you more. Check out the company’s website before you go in.  Learn a little bit about them.  Have a couple of questions to ask.  Be personable. Let’s have a conversation, not an interrogation. And, while it’s not really necessary, if you send a follow-up email after the interview, it’s going to make me think you care enough to put in a little extra effort.

You’ve had six jobs in the last two years?  Thanks, but no thanks.  Next.

And finally, headhunters are useless. Seriously.  I’ve tried going through headhunters while seeking employment, and it always turns out to be a waste of my time.  Now, I’ve been on the other side of the equation, and I can say that they’re pretty useless for finding good help as well.  They cost too much, they do too little.  Avoid them.

At the end of the 2008 season, the Red Line rivalry between the North Side Chicago Cubs and the South Side Chicago White Sox was tied, with each team claiming 33 wins.  Tickets went on sale Friday for their next meeting on June 16, when that tie will be broken.  But there’s at least one way that the Cubs have consistently beaten the Sox – the economic impact the team has on the surrounding neighborhood.

U.S. Cellular Field is surrounded by an ocean of concrete.  Source: Google Maps

U.S. Cellular Field is surrounded by an ocean of concrete. Source: Google Maps

In Wrigleyville, the informal neighborhood that surrounds Wrigley Field on Addison Street, game days mean a huge boon to businesses that surround the stadium.  As tens of thousands of fans flood the area, business surges at the restaurants and bars on Addison and North Clark streets.  But on 35th Street, home to U.S. Cellular Field and the 2008 American League Central division champion White Sox, fans don’t seem stick around after the game.

There’s not much reason to – U.S. Cellular Field is surrounded on three sides by 32 acres of paved parking lot, and is bounded on the fourth side by the Dan Ryan expressway.  Once leaving the ballpark, fans have to hike about a mile west to Halsted Street to find any dining or entertainment options.

Wrigley Field, on the other hand, is nestled amidst a densely populated neighborhood, filled with plentiful opportunities to separate Cubs fans from their dollars.

The International Association of Sports Economists, in a 2006 report comparing the economic impact of the two stadiums, said that this disparity was caused by treating the newer U.S. Cellular Field as a “walled fortress”, designed to maximize the amount of non-ticket revenue collected.  According to the report, the White Sox glean an extra 35% in non-ticket revenue per fan than the Cubs.

Wrigley Field, the centerpiece of a bustling neighborhood.  Source: Google Maps

Wrigley Field, the centerpiece of a bustling neighborhood. Source: Google Maps

But that’s all money that won’t be going into the tills at local businesses.

Another reason that Wrigley Field helps local businesses more than U.S. Cellular Field  is because of day games, according to the report.  The Cubs play twice as many day games at home than do the White Sox, which means fans leave the stadium in the early evening, rather than later at night when dining and shopping options can be more limited.

In a 2005 article for the Chicago Journal, Jeff McMahon said that a sensible alternative would be to develop those concrete-covered acres into a “Comiskeyville” neighborhood.  “A vibrant neighborhood on those 32 acres would not only draw fans to the stadium, it would encourage them to linger, it would attract visitors in the off season, and the land beneath those parking lots would make money all year long,” McMahon said.

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the government unit that owns and manages U.S. Cellular Field, hasn’t indicated any willingness to change their game plan, however.  They even touted the completion of  a new 265,000 square feet of environmentally-sensitive water-permeable parking lot space in April of 2008.  The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority is substantially funded by a 2% hotel tax.

Sox fans do get one benefit from the sea of parking lots that their North Side counterparts miss.  Tailgating is permitted in the huge lots before games, while Cubs fans have to pay local merchants for their pre-game festivities.

That may be good for fans, but not for local business.

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Data taken from mlb.com and yelp.com