Category Archives: Social Media for the Job Hunt

The Blessing of Being Underemployed


ImageMy Mother during World War II, Waiting for My Father to Return from the Pacific

I have been fortunate to be underemployed for several years. That seems like a terrible thing, but for me, it has been a blessing that money will never overshadow. Both my parents are in their 90s now. Since the day I left home in the 1970s, I have been too busy with “life” to make the drive down to Austin and spend time with them. At first, my wife and I would drive down for major holidays. This continued through the early childhood of our first child. By the time the second child arrived, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter at home just seemed like a better option.

I lost touch with the family I grew up with.

Since I was laid off 5 years ago, I needed money, even if the money came from part-time work doing things a professional with an MBA and years in the high-tech industry should never be expected to do. I painted houses, I did yard work, I hawked products at the State Fair of Texas, I did in-store demos…whatever I could find.

My family in Austin was generous with little jobs to help me keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. They offered me jobs at good pay. They even insisted on giving me more than I asked for and loaded up my car with groceries and put “gas money” in my pocket for the return trip to the DFW area.

However, none of this, as much as I appreciated it, can compare to the benefit of simply getting to know my original family again.

Today, I am working to get a young business off the ground. I no longer take on part-time jobs from my Austin family. However, my “day job” still takes me down to Austin on a monthly basis. I stay with my parents each time I travel to the Texas Hill Country so as to not miss an opportunity to spend a few more hours with them.

Recently, my mother has gone into a serious decline. Twelve years ago, she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The best doctors in town treated her with a variety of medications which slowed the inevitable, but the end is at hand. After living in the same house since 1959, she is now living in an extended care facility. What could have been a sad end to an extraordinary life has turned into a glorious send off to a woman loved by many.

I never knew the impact she had on so many people until I spent several hours by her bed in the extended care facility. If my work life had not been interrupted by a devastating lay-off 5 years ago, followed by a protracted return to full employment, I would have missed one of the greatest events in my life.

 Vi Outside TalbotsMy Mother One Year Ago,Waiting for My Father to Pick Her Up After Bible Study

I spent some wonderful time with my mother two weeks ago at the assisted living facility in Austin. As she slowly fades, communication is becoming difficult. At moments, she could answer questions, at other times, I had to guess what she was trying to communicate and at other times, I just sat next to her while she slept.

I saw some of her many friends drop by to see her. They could not tell, because they were only there for a few minutes, but I could see the changes on my mother’s face as she recognized their voices and she smiled, faintly.

Sometimes, after they left, my mother would start to talk to them, having rallied a bit from the visit. It would only be a few words, repeated over and over, facing in the direction where her friend had been moments before. She was loved much, because she loved much.

It was not depressing to be there with her. It was a chance to just spend time with her as I’d said, for so many years, that I should do. Over the seven hours (over two days) I sat next to her, I was rarely alone for more that 20 minutes before another friend or family member would show up. I saw friends lavish love on her and tell me their favorite stories about her. I saw family members giving selflessly to her as she had done for them for so many years. I saw the best in people, brought out into the open as they expressed their love for the woman who gave so much to me for so many years.

I think that we all say that we hope we go quickly and do not linger, but this lingering departure of my mother has given so many people a chance to express their love for her while she still has some ability to experience it. This is a good closure experience for many of us who have already started to miss her.

As I woke up in the house where both my father and mother lived until recently (the house where my 92 year old father still lives and where I grew up), I was struck by how empty the house felt without my mother in it. Not lonely or depressing but empty. One small person was missing, but that small person is the heart of that house.

Good Luck and Godspeed.


Migrant Mother – Glorious Failure


Image

In the Grapevine Public Library, there is a poster displaying one of the most iconic images from the Great Depression; Migrant Mother. I have seen this photograph for years and have always been struck by the woman in the picture; both strong and vulnerable, defeated and determined, plain and beautiful. The image was shot in a pea picker camp in 1936 after the timing belt in their car had snapped and her husband and sons were away having repairs done in town. Six photographs were taken of Florence Owens Thompson and her children by Dorothea Lange, working for the Resettlement Administration. In 1998, the iconic image was turned into a 32 cent postage stamp, which is a bit poetic in the fact that Florence was only 32 years old at the time. Only a few years out of her 20s and yet she looked so much older.

Great Depression Viola

A second picture in this series moved me so much, that I based a post on it called, It wasn’t supposed to be like this…. In the foreground is 14 year old Viola, looking as if her disappointment in life was more than she could bear. At 14, we all long for more than is reasonable, but in Viola’s case, life was indeed worse than she could have expected. Add that to the ennui resident in the soul of the normal 14 year old and you can see this girl, longing for beauty, romance and “happily ever after”, is sure that life is over before the exciting part got started.

The happy news is that they did make it. I found an image of Florence and her three daughters in 1979, 43 years after the photograph was taken.

Florence Thompson and daughters

I do not know the details of all the people in the original photograph. What was the story of Viola’s life, after she moved on from this iconic image? I have not found the story. What I do know, is that they were ashamed. They were dirt poor, selling the tires off their car to buy food, when this photographer arrived to take their pictures. They never wanted to be identified as “that family” the poor Okies in the image that nearly everyone in North America has seen.

It was not until Florence was very ill, and unable to pay her hospital bills, that the family eventually came to understand the importance of that image. The request went out for donations and they received $25,000 to pay for the expenses. After Florence died, the surviving son (the baby in the famous photograph) received 2,000 letters which showed him that this image, a curse on his family for his whole life, was much greater than his shame. It was a source of inspiration and encouragement to people he would never meet.

Share  your experiences as a job seeker. I have never been so surprised as I was when a talented, intelligent job seeker I barely knew, thanked me, in front of a small group of other job seekers, for my blog. She said that my posts let her know that she was not alone. Others were facing her same struggle and they were doing it with humor and honesty. I’ve been thanked by others since that time.

I have written about my grandfather, Choctaw Bowman, who went on to achieve modest success after a hard start in life. However, it is my other grandfather, Bill Snider, who never achieved success, who inspires me. I hope to publish his story some day, but suffice it to say, he was knocked down time and time again, only to beat out a modest living and die happy.

I was laid off well after the prime of my life. I had no dreams of rising back to my former glory and traveling the world in business class, staying in four star hotels and eating steak dinners on a corporate expense account.I had to face the harsh realities that life was not going to end as well as it had started.

That is what I chose to write about.

We can not all succeed but we will all fail. Share your experiences as you forge a path forward. Blog your experiences and you just might find that you are being thanked by someone younger, more talented and intelligent than you are, because you share a common experience with honesty, humor and hope.

Good Luck and Godspeed,

James Snider
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development
214-377-9817214-377-9817

Learn about TFX:
http://portal.sliderocket.com/BOOJC/TFX-NonStick-Presentation


Choctaw Bowman


Choctaw Bowman - Military ManMy Grandfather (on the left) during WWI

At one time, it was easy to conceal your past. We have all heard stories of men who went West for a new beginning. It was easy, 100 years ago, to leave your past behind. Actually, it was difficult for your past to follow you.

When I attended my first defensive driving class (in the early 1970s) the instructor wanted to make a point about how we all had different degrees of training for operating a motor vehicle. He asked if anyone had received a drivers license without a formal test. Today, we would see this as a “set up” for calling in the officials to make an arrest, but in the 1970s, if we’d done everything by the book, we had no concerns. An old man in the group raised his hand and stated that he received his drivers license by filling out a form and paying 75 cents. That was it. No test, no training, no background check, no ID, no birth certificate to prove he was of legal age. 75 cents and a short form got him a drivers license.

We have all heard stories about Civil War veterans who joined the cause by lying about their age and joining their army of choice. This continued well into the 20th century. My Grandfather, Charles Bowman, lied about his age to join the infantry in World War I. I have to wonder if he questioned the wisdom of his decision. He saw plenty of bloodshed on the fields of France as a bugler in the infantry. However, he followed Black Jack Pershing, after the war, into the battle against Pancho Villa on the Texas border. He was a military man.

Eventually, he moved to Austin, TX with his young bride and became the first trolley car driver down the streets of ATX and continued his career with Austin Transit Company, eventually becoming the Vice President of Charters for the bus line. All of this under the name of “Charles Bowman”.

We did not learn of his duplicity until 60 years later, when he was too feeble for my grandmother to take care of in their home on 1509 6th Street. My older brother drove him from his home in Austin to the Veterans Hospital in Temple, TX. While checking him in, and presenting his enlistment papers to the administrators at the VA hospital, my brother noticed that “GrandDad” had joined the infantry under the name of “Choctaw Bowman.” The man I had known for 40+ years as “Charles Bowman” was, in reality, born “Choctaw Bowman”.

My grandfather had spent all his adult years under an assumed name.   Sometime after his military career, he decided that “Choctaw” was not a suitable name for a young man with career aspirations. At that time (1920s), all you had to do was to fill out paperwork with the information you wanted employers to believe was true. I guess they could have checked his military record and “outed him” but they did not. He continued his life under this new name, with impunity.

Things are not like that now. If  you were arrested in 1970, there is an on-line record of that. It is easy to find all the dirt on you that anyone might want to find. This brings me to a recurring theme. Your future employer will look for information on you on-line. If you are not found, they will dig deeper. If there is information that you do not want them to find, make it easy for them to find good information about you. Get your LinkedIn profile up to date (there is little reason to go back more than 20 years with your work history….no one cares that you bused tables in grad school).

Post updates about your good work and “good works”. If you wrote a published article, include a link to that on-line article on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you were awarded a patent, put that on LinkedIn. If you volunteer at the homeless shelter on Thanksgiving Day, post a picture on Twitter and an update on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you are not doing good things, start doing them. Earn new certifications. Update your programming skills. Brush up on Spanish at the community college. Do things that make you employable and make sure to broadcast that on social media.

If your future employer can find dozens of things about you on pages 1 – 20 with a Google search, there is little reason to continue on to page 21 where they may find images of you dancing the Hula with a giant Mai Tai in your hand. Make it easy for them to find the information that will make them want to hire you. Social Media is just as effective in getting news on the Internet as a press release. Make it work for you.

Good Luck and Godspeed.


Time and Chance


Ecclesiastes 9:11

I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.

It might seem strange to associate a scripture with an image of Vegas, but Ecclesiastes is all about the futility of human existence and few places is that futility more evident than on the Strip in Las Vegas. There was a time when I traveled to Vegas twice a year for trade shows. I was shocked by my first experience. Arriving in the airport that first night, with people everywhere looking as much like an ant colony as bipeds can look. This was the most normal thing I would see until I boarded the plane at the end of the week to return home. My first view of the strip was like a scene from a 1960s surrealist movie. Even an act as common as walking from the hotel to the convention center was unlike anything I’d experience in my life. Opulence, debauchery, depravity, arrogance, greed… it was piled up along every sidewalk, on every billboard, in every gutter and in the eyes of everyone you saw. Except for the natives. What you saw in the eyes of Las Vegasites was simply the fatigue of chronic misery.

I know people who love to go to Vegas and they will disagree with my perception. What I experience on my first trip was the unreal world of Comdex 1995. Your experiences might be different, but I was in the arrogant world of geeks at the geekiest show on earth in the one city I know that refers to itself as “Sin City”.

I was not attracted to the casinos. A quick look around would convince a thinking person that all those huge buildings where not built from people winning money in the casinos. The profiteers at these establishments understand what the writer of Ecclesiastes referred to as “time and chance”. Given enough chances and enough time, “luck” turns against you. What the casinos do is rely on a slim statistical advantage which benefits the house…and they rely on human nature.

A slot machine that pays out 98% of the time would be considered a very “loose slot”. For every $100 put into the machine, the house keeps $2. If a player plays long enough, he or she is guaranteed to lose all their money. In Nevada, it is legal to pay out as little as 75%. The average customer can walk into a casino, drop $20 in a machine, realize that it is not paying out much, move on to the next machine, drop $20, etc. Everyone wants to hit that big one.  Once you find that one machine which is sprinkling back a few winnings every 5 pulls or so, you may have lost several hundred dollars before you got there.

The best thing that can happen to a person is to lose all the money they intended to lose within the first hour they come to Las Vegas. You will not get the gambling bug that way because it is no fund to lose. The worst thing that can happen to a person is to hit a jackpot within their first hour. For the remainder of their visit, they will try to recapture that moment. They will lose everything they won, everything they set as their limit and everything they can get their hands on….all trying to recapture that moment of euphoria when they won the jackpot. That is the human nature side of things. Casinos do not fall prey to human nature. Gamblers do. Casinos do not gamble; they win. Eventually, the gambler will run out of money. They will not quit while they are winning because it is too much fun. They will not quit while they are losing because they are waiting for their luck to turn around. They will not quit when they become desperate because they just have to get their money back….after all, they were winning earlier. It is just a matter of time before they will be back on a winning streak. When they lose more than they can afford to lose, then they quit. The casinos have deeper pockets. There is no such thing as losing more than they can afford to lose. They can outlast anyone.

Of course, I am ignoring the fact that casinos can throw out anyone who is winning too much. Some people just have a phenomenal winning streak and the casinos have all sorts of tricks to break those streaks. They change dealers, offer more free booze, have a chatty person strike up a conversation and even employ “coolers” who are apparently born losers who ruin the luck of everyone they come in contacts with. In the end, if they can not stop a person from winning, they “ask” them to leave.

But in the end, it is just statistics; time and chance. The casinos stay open all night , 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They can open a table at any time to accommodate people who have money to wager. Chance is on their side. All they need to do is to run enough people through and the casinos are paid for, in full, in a few years. Very few years.

Time and chance also operates in the life of the job seeker. So often, I have heard people state that they were out of work, 6 months, one year, 18 months….with no viable prospects. Very few interviews. No offers. Suddenly, they hit. They get an offer. As they are preparing to accept the offer, a second one comes in. Occasionally, a third offer arrives while they are picking between the two. They are baffled. They do not know what they did differently.

I have a theory based on statistics and human nature. If  you toss a coin 100 times, it will come up (give or take a couple) heads half the time and tails the other half of the time. However, during the tossing, you will hit runs. It will come up heads 4 times in a row, tails twice, then heads 3 times in a row, etc. If you were betting on “heads” you would say that your luck was running good.  If it started to come up heads twice, tails, then heads, then tails twice, you would say that your luck was turning. Really, it is just chance. The longer you play (time) to more things are going to even out.

I have heard a statistic that it takes 50 face-to-face interviews to get an offer. Your odds are 50:1 that you will get the offer. Eventually, your “luck” will change. Just keep interviewing. In the end, it will not always be the swiftest, wisest, most discerning or the candidate of greatest ability….it will be you.

Good Luck and Godspeed.


Frozen Pipes


frozen-pipes

When my wife and I were married less than a year, we decided to buy a house. It was a bit fool hardy as we were barely making any money, but we lived in a marginal neighborhood on its way back up from hard times. Houses were going for cheap and renting did not make sense. The houses in our neighborhood fell into two categories: beautiful and expensive or cheap fixer-uppers. We bought a wonderful Victorian cottage in dire need of fixing up.

Our first winter there, I learned more than I wanted to know about frozen pipes. It was a particularly cold winter and previous residents had done little to insulate the water pipes. I tried all sorts of things to “unfreeze” the pipes, but the only effective method was to wait for the temperature to go back up. I opened faucets around the house so I would know the second we had running water again. When our pipes finally unfroze, I discovered three bad things: our kitchen faucet had been damaged by the freeze and would no longer turn off the running water, the substandard plumbing had no water shut offs underneath the sink so there was no way to turn off the water in this sink and the drain in the kitchen sink was also frozen shut. I had water quickly filling up my kitchen sink and no idea where the water shut off was. I called to my wife to get a neighbor to come over and shut off the water. I was madly bailing water out the kitchen window.  It was only the next morning that I discovered that I was bailing water out the kitchen window and into the old VW Beetle parked in the driveway. Some neighborhood kids had broken the back window so I was forced to drive the car, in the dead of winter, with a missing back window. Soon I could add mildew to the list of problems that poor Beetle had.

At times like these, you can either laugh or cry. We chose to laugh and laughed many times as we retold this story over the years. We were young and assumed that we would never be this poor again and that these hard times were only temporary. Good times would come and we would love to tell the stories of our hard early years. Stories such as the times we would go into a laundromat, pull the agitators out of the washing machines and get the spare change that accumulated there (I replaced the agitators. This is a story of ingenuity, not vandalism) then we’d eat dinner at McDonald’s.

But what happens 20 years later when you lose your job and your next job is hard to find? Can you still look at this situation as temporary and as the basis for good stories in your future? The hard truth is, we can not be as confident that things will get better as we were in our 20s. There are many people in their 50s and 60s that are having to make some hard decisions because things have changed and they have limited runway left ahead of them to make the adjustments.

When the great recession took me out of circulation, it gave me an opportunity to take a look around and see what was happening in the rest of the world while I was busy working. I discovered that digital marketing had come a long way since I first discovered the magic of email and web pages as marketing tools (circa 1995). It gave me a chance to learn new things that would help me get back into the job market. I formed a Social Media Lab for people my age who had no idea what a Tweet was. As you can see from the following picture, we were able to muster that sense of adventure that you will need to navigate your way back into the job market. We pulled each other up when one was down, explained the esoteric changes to Facebook and made sure everyone was able to create and update the social media platform(s) of their choice. You may be on the sideline now, but now is the right time to learn those things you never had time to learn while you were heads down in a cubical.

Good luck and Godspeed!

MAGC Soc Med Lab

James Snider
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development
214-377-9817
Learn about TFX:

http://portal.sliderocket.com/BOOJC/TFX-NonStick-Presentation


Gallant


My wife is a substitute school teacher. After 10 years of teaching public school in Fort Worth, she took off 20 years to raise children. With our youngest in college, she has returned to the classroom. She told me a story this weekend about an incident in her classroom last week.

There was a second grade boy in her class who just could not get with the program. He spoke out instead of raising his hand. When he did raise his hand, he made all sorts of pained noises. He was always talking to a neighbor, getting out of his seat, fidgeting and dropping things. My wife has a special tolerance for this sort of thing. Our own son was like this. She home schooled him for 5 years to make sure that no one mistook him for a bad kid and crushed his tremendous creativity, affectionate self-confidence and passion for learning.

As it turns out, the class she was teaching needed to borrow rulers from another teacher. My wife is very serious about taking perfect care of borrowed things. She is loathe to lend her carefully maintained property and frustrated when people return it damaged. She stressed over and over to her little second grade class that they needed to be careful with these borrowed, plastic rulers.

The active boy I mentioned was happily working away on this assignment, talking up a storm and bending the ruler constantly as he worked. As could be foreseen, he broke it in three pieces. With dread visible all over him, he brought the broken pieces to my wife.

With a voice full of compassion, she informed him that he needed to do the right thing and take the ruler down the hall to the owner and tell her that he was sorry but he’d broken her ruler. He beseeched  my wife, with tears in his eyes, to not make him do this. She asked him if he knew what the word “gallant” meant. “It means to be brave and do the right thing. I need you to be gallant and tell the teacher what happened.”

Slowly he walked down the hall with the pieces of ruler in his hand. With shoulders stooped, he explained to the teacher what had happened. She listened with a soft heart and thanked him for telling her, then sent him back to his room. My wife thanked him for being gallant and had him return to his desk. She saw little second grade hands reaching out to him as he worked his way back to his desk. Everyone wanted to express their admiration for the brave boy who did the right thing.

When the project was completed and the rulers were collected, my wife asked the active (gallant) boy to take the rulers back to the teacher who lent them. She received them from him warmly and thanked him by name. She did not know his name before that day but since returning the broken ruler, she knows his name and his reputation is fixed in her mind as a brave boy who does the right thing.

Maybe you find yourself looking for a new job because your reputation was not everything it should have been. If some of your past life is alive on the internet, social media is a great way to move it off of page one and to page 15 of Google search results. Take some classes, learn some new skills, work on your greatest weaknesses and update LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc to reflect the new person you are working to become. Become involved in causes that help other people and promote those organizations via social media.  Now is the right time to be brave and do the right things. The people who meet you now will know you for who you are and not who you were.

Good Luck and Godspeed!

James Snider
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development
214-377-9817

Learn about TFX:
http://portal.sliderocket.com/BOOJC/TFX-NonStick-Presentation


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