Tag Archives: linkedin

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.


LinkedIn Spamming Strangers in Your Name


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Last night, a friend of mine asked me if LinkedIn auto-generated “invitations to connect” to complete strangers that matched their (LinkedIn’s) assessment of connections he might be interested in. I had to admit that this is something I’d never wondered….so I had no answer. However, I have noticed a significant increase in invitations from people I do not know. In my case, I have spent a lot of time on LinkedIn over the past year building a new network. I am changing industries, so all my previous LinkedIn connections were only moderately helpful in making the contacts I need to make. I send out around 100 invitations a month, so when I started receiving random invitations from people in this new industry, I just assumed it was tied to my increased activity.

But here is the piece of the story I did not tell you. My friend, a CEO of a small semiconductor company, just assumed that people wanted to connect to him due to his executive status in the high tech industry. He noticed the increase in random invitations but assumed that it was related to increased job hunting activities, now that the economy has started to pickup. That is, however, until he received an invitation to connect to himself.  It was then that he started to question if he was getting a flurry of requests to connect which were generated by LinkedIn based on his profile and on the profiles of people he was connecting to.

I did a quick Google search on “does linkedin automatically send invitations” to discover a LinkedIn discussion started on February 9 of this year. There was outrage being expressed over LinkedIn doing exactly this. Most of the respondents in this discussion indicated that they were careful about who they sent invitations to and from whom they accepted invitations.

Mystery solved. LinkedIn will generate invitations for you to people they think you might want to be connected to.

I do not have the same concern, as some people do, about connecting to people I may not know. I am essentially in sales, and you are probably not going to make much of a business by only selling to people you know. What concerns me is that LinkedIn has decided to do this without telling us. They are essentially “telemarketing” to LinkedIn members, under our name and LinkedIn profile, without our ever knowing.

Isn’t this what a virus does?

Good luck and Godspeed!


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


How to Guarantee That I Will NOT Connect With You


I have a very liberal policy when it comes to connecting with people on LinkedIn. If you give me any indication that we have anything in common, I will connect with you. If you indicate that we have ever spoken or you have read anything I posted or we belong to any of the same groups, I will connect. If I can look you up on LinkedIn and find anything in common (we both went to the same school, worked at the same company, have common interests, worked in the same industry, are in the same line of work…) I will connect with you.

But, if you simply use the standard, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” and do not show me any common interest in your profile, I am only about half inclined to accept your invitation. If it appears that you might benefit me, then I might accept. This is hard to do unless you have some detail in your profile.

If, however, you appear to be a spammer or arrogant or selfish, I am not going to connect with you. I know a lot of people in Asia and am connected with several of them but I find that invitations from China or India from strangers almost always turn out to be spammers who want to sell me their web development services or search engine optimization services. It would be one thing if they sent me a single email but they send me three or four messages a week….that is spam.

If you get caught in that situation, here is how to “unconnect” with them. Simply write down the name of the person you want to unconnect with, then go to your Contacts on LinkedIn and look at the far right hand side (see red arrow in the following image) for the “Remove Connections” option.

Remove Connections

You will need to search through your connections to find that person you want to remove, but this will get them off your LinkedIn account.

One more thing to point out. Occasionally I talk about your LinkedIn profile picture. Many people are reluctant to put an image of themselves on LinkedIn but I encourage you to add a professional, friendly picture of yourself. It does not have to be a “coat and tie picture on blue background” but it needs to make a good impression of you as a professional person. About a year ago, I received an invitation from a total stranger who was promoting himself as an “amazing graphic artist that will rock your boring little world.” His profile picture looked like a gang banger. I understand that you need to show confidence but showing arrogance is never a good idea. I did not accept his invitation.

Good luck and Godspeed.

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

Recruiters


As we get started networking into target companies, you are going to run into some people who are nearly impossible to reach via LinkedIn. Their LinkedIn profile is almost empty.  They may have worked for small companies and have very few connections. They don’t belong to any groups and give you almost no insight into their history. To reach these people, you are going to have to do some serious use of Google. In the end, they will probably not accept your invitation to connect via LinkedIn. Either they do not use LinkedIn much or they may even have an email address attached to their profile that they do not use any more.

Rather than use up too much time working on reaching these impossible people, go after the low hanging fruit. Reach out to the recruiters.

The easiest path into a company is through the recruiters. They need to know as many people as possible. They make a living out of being able to find great candidates. The more people they know, the better the chances that they will find the right match for the job before anyone else can. Like sales people, they want a lot of connections on LinkedIn. They will almost always accept an invitation to connect with you on LinkedIn. Once you are connected to them, you will be a second degree connection to a bunch of people in that company…and it is easier to connect to second degree connections.

Another useful thing about being connected to recruiters is that they tend to change job frequently. Some change as often as every 6 months. A few stay with the same company for multiple years, but most switch companies often. That recruiter that left Dell to go to work at Bazaarvoice in Austin may seem like a lost opportunity (unless you want to work for Bazaarvoice) but in 9 months they may be working for a company you want to network into.

I would suggest that you go to the “People” search field in the upper right hand corner of LinkedIn and select the “Advanced” option just to the right of the window where you input your search criteria. Most people are afraid to click on anything marked “Advanced”, thinking that they are not smart enough to use the Advanced features. In your mind, substitute the word “Helpful” for “Advanced” and go for it. These are helpful features that you should learn to use.

Once you get to the “Helpful” screen, you will see fields for title and company. Fill in “recruiter” for the job and the name of the company you are interested in and just give it a shot. You will need to scroll past recruiters who no longer work for your target company, but you might want to network with a recruiter at HP or Samsung.

One more suggestion. When you find that recruiter you can connect with (you worked with them before or they belong to the same LinkedIn group as you belong to), do not send them the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message. That would be like asking a woman on a date by saying, “I’m not doing anything tonight. Wanna go do something?” That will work with someone who knows you or someone with no standards but it is not an effective way to establish a new relationship with a stranger. Say something along the lines of  “I am very interested in careers at Dell. I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn.” It is not prose but it is better than the standard message…and it works well enough.

Good Luck and Godspeed!

James Snider
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development
888-512-425

College Alumni


I have said from time to time that the best place to start networking via LinkedIn is with the alumni groups for the colleges you attended. Almost every university of any size has a LinkedIn group. If you attended more than one university (whether you received a degree or not) you should join the group. This will increase your ability to connect with people outside your immediate field of experience.

Keep something in mind. LinkedIn wants to prevent spammers. It would ruin LinkedIn if it became nothing more than a resource for every on-line pharmacy or insurance company or ponzi scheme to blast members with endless emails. LinkedIn safeguards this pretty well by making sure that only people who have a common interest can connect with you. Either they worked at the same company you did (as is determined by their LinkedIn profile), went to the same school, belong to the same group or they know your email address.

This is great at keeping you relatively free of spam but it is also a barrier if you are trying build a new network outside your realm of experience. If you are tired of writing test software for missiles and want to write test software for wind turbines, all your contacts at Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are not going to be very useful in getting you connected to people at Siemens and GE. That is where memberships in groups will be helpful and college alumni groups are among the most inclined to accept an invitation from a complete stranger.

To a certain extent, having gone to a large university has an advantage by having a larger LinkedIn group, but that is not always the case. Both the University of Texas and Texas A&M University have current student bodies of approximately 50,000 students. The Texas Exes LinkedIn group as 35,000 members but the Texas A&M Association of Former Students has 14,000 members. You will also need to join the Texas A&M University Alumni group with almost 10,000 members. Considering the rabid school spirit of the Aggies, you would just assume that their LinkedIn group would be one of the largest, but it is not.

My other Alma Mater is the University of North Texas in Denton with a current enrollment of 36,000 students. Once again, another big school, however, they have two LinkedIn groups with only 9,000 and 4,000 members. UNT is largely a commuter school with little school spirit. Despite the fact that they have a significant number of distinguished alumni including Don Henley (The Eagles) and Nora Jones (we can skip the fact that Dr. Phil also went there) plus Pat Boone and Roy Orbison (if you are a bit older), people just do not feel a kinship with other UNT grads. Therefore, you would not expect a large LinkedIn group.

On the other hand, tiny Trinity University in San Antonio has around 2,500 students but a LinkedIn group of 3,500.

You may have attended a community college and feel reluctant to highlight that on your LinkedIn profile. I received 6 hours of credit in Photography from Tarrant County College (back when it was called Tarrant County Jr College or TCJC…or Taco Jaco…) but I did not mention it on anything. In reality, TCC is a large school with 38,000 students in enrollment. However,  their LinkedIn Group contains only 231 members.

In this instance, LinkedIn might not be much help. If you do a keyword search on “Tarrant County College,” you will get over 18,000 results. These are people who took some classes there, mentioned it on their LinkedIn profile, even if they did not care to join the group. My guess is, you are not going to get much of a response if you try to get someone to LinkIn with you based on the fact that you both attended Taco Jaco back in the 1970s.

There are plenty of judgment calls to be made here. You have to size up if there is any benefit to reaching out to someone based on having gone to the same school. In some cases, it will help you a lot. You will find that classmate who is involved in wind turbines at GE and will be able to connect with them. In other instance, you are going to just have to dig a little deeper.

We will get into “deeper digging” in my next post.

Good Luck and Godspeed!

James Snider
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development, TFX Nonstick!
888-512-425

Building Your LinkedIn Network For The Future


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I recently ran the InMaps facility on LinkedIn to see what my network looks like. Not surprisingly, the big blue section is comprised of people associated with job seekers (coaches, recruiters and job seekers). I really started building my LinkedIn connections when I became active in Southlake Focus, a networking group for job seeking professionals. These people tend to have many more LinkedIn contacts and to be more interconnected than the general population. Southlake Focus attendees tend to connect with other Southlake Focus attendees.  With no fewer than 200 people in attendance each week, and as many as 400, the group is fairly large. Therefore, a large, dense blue bubble.

The other major section, the red area on the right, are the people associated with FireWire. I was the industry marketing person for FireWire for 15 years. Those are the people I tended to network with prior to Southlake Focus.

The scattered green section at the bottom are social media contacts, many I met through Southlake Focus but most of them are scattered across multiple companies in the DFW area and some are thought leaders from all over. Makes sense that the group would not be as dense.

And finally, the violet cluster at the top right are my contacts from the 14 years I worked a Texas Instruments. I left TI in June of 2001. LinkedIn was not launched until May of 2003. My TI contacts are not very numerous nor densely connected.

You can see where you have put most of your LinkedIn effort by studying the InMap graphic.

As an entrepreneur, I am using LinkedIn to make contacts which do not fall into any of these categories. That can be a challenge. I first learned how to overcome this challenge as a job seeker. I was a bit shocked to learn that Kimberly-Clark would not consider me for an international marketing job despite my 17 years of global marketing and business development experience.  I had one honest recruiter tell me that I was not in the running because I lacked “CPG” experience. That stands for “Consumer Packaged Goods”.  In layman’s terms, that is all the stuff you see on store shelves. I sold semiconductors, not Klennex. I had zero experience in anything that interested them.

I had to learn to find the “back doors” into companies like Kimberly-Clark through LinkedIn. I have gone on to maximize this knowledge as an entrepreneur. What I have learned should interest job seekers who are trying to leave an industry that is in decline. You are going to have a hard time making that jump. You are going to need to find a buddy inside. There is no silver bullet. You are going to have to work, but a few minutes each day will pay off.

We will cover this over the next few posts.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

The Palantír


For those of you familiar with Lord of the Rings, you will recall the scene where the always feckless Pippin looks into the “seeing stone”, the Palantir, was transfixed and then rescued by Gandalf.

” ‘So this is the thief!’ said Gandalf. Hastily he cast his cloak over the globe where it lay. ‘But you, Pippin! This is a grievous turn to things!’ He knelt by Pippin’s body; the hobbit was lying on his back, rigid, with unseeing eyes staring up at the sky. ‘The devilry! What mischief has he done – to himself, and to all of us?’ The wizard’s face was drawn and haggard.”

A similar scene played out in my life this week concerning malware and my 91 year old mother. OK, it is not the end of the world as we know it, but the ability of malware to infect computers and wreak havoc can feel that way sometimes.

She received a fairly standard piece of suspicious email (the latest one going around….I see it about twice a day) from a “trusted friend” so she clicked on the link. After that, everyone she has ever emailed received the same email from her computer.

She was astonished that I was not fooled. After all, the email came from my own mother and the message said “wow this is crazy you should give it a look.” The fact that “wow this is crazy” does not sound at all like my 91 year old mother was a clue, however, I get so many of these sorts of emails every week, spotting them has become instinctive. It is probably because my email address is all over the place. I am on dozens of job hunter email lists and I exchange emails with bunches of people I barely know.

My mother asked me how I size up an email as being suspicious, so I sent her the following:

1) Does not call me by name. Just has a call to action such as “You really need to see this”

2) Tone is too familiar from someone I do not know. “Hey, I am rolling on the floor laughing at this picture of you on the internet”

3) Tone is too excited or threatening. It appears that it is trying to get me to click on a link instinctively. “Your email account has been hacked. You must verify your account immediately or we will close it in 24 hours”

4) The email is one sentence pointing me to a web page.

5) There is nothing in the subject line

6) The language is awkward like a non-native English speaker wrote it.”Please to verify your order placed that we are to be shipping soon”

7) I have seen the same email before

Essentially, any time someone sends me a link to a web page or sends me a file to open, I am cautious. If they want me to click on anything, they’d better call me by name and give me a little bit of detail. A short note like “Good article” or “You might find this useful” is not enough.

Make sure you give me enough detail that it shows that you know me. “Good article about what recruiters look for in a resume” is only enough information to motivate me to write you back to verify. “James, If you missed this article on LinkedIn, it is worth reading. A lot of it is what Dirk Spencer already told us, but this adds some details on what recruiters look for in a resume.” That is enough information that I will click the link to read the article.

In today’s world, you just can not click links or open files that people email you. There are no trusted people. Viruses get on their computer and they will never know it. Or, viruses will get on Tom’s computer, look up people in his email account, then send the email out with Mary’s name on it. Mary’s computer is not infected. Tom’s computer is infected, but the virus makes the email look like it is coming from Mary’s computer. Or, the virus will infect the Yahoo or Gmail computers. Your computer might be clean, but the virus is sending email from the Yahoo computer and making it look like it is coming from your computer.

With social media, the trickery has been going on for a few years.  On LinkedIn, the worst I have seen is simple spam. Some stranger from Bangalore or Shenzhen wants to LinkIn with me. I accept and they start spamming me with various sales pitches. LinkedIn makes it easy to tag the message as spam and that tends to stop it quickly.

On Twitter, I get messages about the funny picture of me on the internet that has some stranger rolling on the floor laughing. A more interesting Twitter ploy is a mention from someone I am not following and who is not following me. Occasionally I click the “@ connect” button to see who has mentioned one of my tweets. About once a month, I see something like “@JSnid fhq4.co.cc/rgm7.” I check the Twitter account of the person mentioning my Twitter handle only to see that they have zero followers and are following zero people. Strange. Don’t click!

I get invitations to connect on Facebook and Google+ from strangers from foreign lands….not interested. Don’t accept.

Frankly, I am real tired of malware.  Am I wrong here? I would love to see the G7 propose a million dollar bounty for the capture and conviction of people who write and release all forms of spyware, viruses, trojans, worms…all malware in general.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama….are you listening? I think we have a real vote getter here.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

The Blind Chef


Last week, I had the good fortune to be invited by DARS (Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services) to give mock interviews to blind and visually impaired job seekers. As is so often the case with these sorts of ventures, I got more from it than I gave. I was given two job seekers to “interview.”

The first was a lady with several years of customer service experience before she lost her sight. She wanted to return to that field. That was an easy interview. She had the personality for the job and her years of experience were reflected in the answers she gave to the interview questions. If I were in a position to hire a person to do customer service, I would have made an offer on the spot.

The next interview was a bit rough. It was a young man who wanted to be a chef. A blind chef. He wanted to convince me that it was OK to bring him into my profit center (the kitchen) to work around fire, slippery liquids, heavy objects and knives in a crowded, hectic environment. What little I know about a commercial kitchen, I know from talking to my two children; one who is a server and one who manages a restaurant. However, one of my strengths is empathy. Somehow, I was able to morph into a restaurant owner and I was not going to hire this guy. The risks were just too great. What if he got hurt? What if he started a fire? What if he hurt someone else? My mind was going full speed against making this hire.

What transpired over the next 20 minutes was an enormous struggle within me. I asked him a few general questions and he gracefully worked into the conversation that he specialized in taking the usual and putting his own twist on it. I asked for an example. He said, “Chicken Fried Strawberries.” Perhaps he heard the snicker in my voice. I’ve been to the State Fair of Texas, home of Fried Twinkies,  Chicken Fried Bacon and Chicken Fried Butter (I wish I were making this up). I just assumed that this was one more gauche Texas redneck indulgence until he continued. “It is a lot harder to get right than it sounds. If you fry it too long, the strawberry turns into mush. If you don’t fry it long enough, the crust is not crisp.”  That made sense. I know enough about cooking that he had me interested and a little bit impressed. Then he went on to describe the elegant sauce he made to drizzle over it. I was hooked. It sounded incredible.

I turned the conversation back to the reservations I had about hiring a visually impaired person to work in a dangerous environment. He was honest. He could not see if chicken was browned correctly (as an example) but he would ask a prep chef to be his eyes on the rare occasions when he needed them. We talked about the stressful environment of working in a commercial kitchen. He said that he focused so intensely on what he was doing that he blocked out the distractions and was not easily rattled by the stress. He always knew where everything he needed was. He was methodical in where he placed his pans, knives, ingredients, etc. His answers were good but he could not take away my fear of taking a chance on him. There are plenty of chefs out there to hire. Why take a chance on someone who just might not be able to perform the duties?

I let up a little bit on the hostile questioning. We talked about his specialty. He was not really Southwestern or French or (I ran out of specialties). What was his specialty? When he started talking about food, his passion was contagious. I felt my apprehensions starting to melt and a voice in my head started saying, “Give this guy a chance. He sounds like an incredible chef.”

My marketing brain started to run. What a great story for the evening news. “Blind chef creates signature dish that puts struggling restaurant on the map.” He had a nice look and would look great on camera. What an incredible break through this would be for visually impaired people all over North Texas. I had no doubt that this guy could work magic with food.

That’s when the lizard brain kicked in. I started feeling cautious. I could not get over the fact that he could not see where the fire was. He could not see if the prep chef was right behind him. He could not see if he’d spilled the olive oil and it was under his feet or seeping into the flame. He did not have complete use of all his senses which made him a risky addition to the kitchen.

As I wrapped up the interview, I asked the standard, “Do you have any questions?” He went straight to the point. “What would prevent you from hiring me today?” My answer was honest, “I am concerned that your lack of sight might cause you to get hurt or to hurt someone else.” His thoughtful response was an exquisite Touche’. “I managed 250 men on a construction site for several years” (this was back before he lost his sight). “I’ve seen a lot of men with sight, get hurt because they were distracted. Since I lack my sight, when I am in the kitchen, I am the most focused person in the room.”

Interestingly, the day before this mock interview, I’d had a real interview with a major hotel chain who is staffing up 90 marketers in their eCommerce department. My eCommerce experience is a bit limited, but not inconsequential. I am proficient in social media marketing, am certainly a self-starter, have management experience, good sense of humor and people skills. The best thing I brought to the table was a clear understanding of what their customers need when making on-line reservations. I was a road warrior for 10 years and used multiple on-line booking sites, including their’s.

I was required to work through a case study and give a presentation as part of the interview process. I love giving presentations. I really got into the case study, pouring over the numbers, examining their website, Facebook and Twitter sites. I analyzed the sites of their competitors and Google rankings. I had more than enough to say in the 20 minutes they gave me for the presentation. I had a wonderful time and showed them a pretty good time in the process.

The day following my time with the blind job seekers, I received the phone call from the recruiter. “Thanks, but no thanks.” The piece I left out of the description of my interview was the age gap. Everyone I spoke to was late 20s or early 30s. I have a son in college. eCommerce is the domain of the young. It did not matter that I was passionate about the opportunity or the employer. It did not matter that my passion was palpable. The lizard brain would not let them take a chance on me. I did not fit their profile for what an eCommerce person should be. Their careers depend on staffing with the right people. They were not willing to take a chance.

Despite my talent and passion for doing exactly what this employer is looking for, I have a significant barrier. I am like the blind chef. I understand the lizard brain because it was active in me as I talked to him. I know why these “20 somethings” were not willing to extend to me an offer. We become frustrated by this job market, even angry. But I say, have some understanding for those on the other side of the desk.

Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to move from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” Some day, someone will give the blind chef a chance and I am sure he will prove himself to be an tremendous asset. As for me, I need to take some of my own advice. I LinkedIn with the most senior person with whom I interviewed. I Googled him and read a great article about him. I dropped him an email to tell him how much I enjoyed the article. I connected to him via Google+. I found 12 people who work at this hotel chain who are involved in eCommerce and are alumni of my two alma maters. Did I mention to you that fellow alumni are very likely to connect with you on LinkedIn? I now have 12 new connections on LinkedIn. This may all amount to nothing but it may end up getting me a really great job.

Keep in mind that there are things that are just going to get in the way. If you have passion for what you do, you will get a job. It may not be the very next job that comes along, but you will get one.

If you ever see Chicken Fried Strawberries on the menu, get them. Send your compliments to the chef. Shake the restaurant manager’s hand and tip your server well. That signature dish will be your sign that a blind chef had the passion to overcome significant barriers and land that job he is dreaming of today.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

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