Tag Archives: marketing

Pinning for a job on Pinterest

Perhaps you have been hearing a lot about Pinterest recently. It has become the fastest growing social media site ever. It grew to 10 million users in just 9 months and is currently enjoying hockey stick growth. Marketers have been scratching their heads to figure out how to use it to market products. Pinterst is pretty blunt about not wanting their site to be overrun with “Billy Mays” pitchmen. They encourage sharing and discourage selling. As a result, the selling is very artistic and subtle.

However, your concern is how to use it to enhance your job search. Before I address this, let me tell you a little bit about Pinterest.

It is like Twitter but it is image focused not word focused. You would follow people because you think they will post images/webpages/videos that you will find interesting. Maybe you love pug dogs and you will follow people who will post things about pugs. They will post cute images of pugs and maybe videos, but mostly they will post links to web pages about pugs.  This is a social bookmarking site where you share interesting links with people who follow you. However, keep in mind that this is image based. You will not attract much attention with text about “This is the best site for treating heartworms in pugs.” You will attract much more attention with an image of a pug in a zebra pattern snuggie. A web site without a show stopper image does not make a good post on Pinterest.

Like Facebook, the content stays there and doesn’t scroll off the screen in 20 seconds as it does with Twitter. Pinterest users can sort content into categories. These are called “boards” and when you post content to one of these boards, it is called “pinning”. It is as if you are pinning really great pictures on a bulletin board for your friends to see. If you are like me, you find that cluttered Facebook format to be annoying. You have to scroll down past all the stuff your friends think is interesting to find those few things posted by people who you care about or who really are interesting. With Pinterest, you can go straight to boards with content which interests you. If someone has a board called “Cats” and you are a dog person, you will skip that and go to “Places to Visit” or “Cakes” or “Bucket List” etc.

A great feature of Pinterest is the ability to follow only the  boards that interest you.  There is a general Pinterest section called “Pinners you follow” which is somewhat like Twitter. You can get a quick glimpse at all the newest stuff to be pinned by the people you follow.  If you are following a person who posts something you find objectionable, you can simply unfollow that board on her Pinterest account. You will still see the other stuff she posts without having to see her “Politics” or “Humor” boards. You do not have to “unfriend/unfollow” her completely as you would with Facebook or Twitter.

You will notice that I used female pronouns. That is because most Pinterest users are 18-34 year old upper income women from the American heartland. This did not start out among the techies on the east or west coast. According to TechCrunch:

The Pacific and North East regions contained the most Pinterest users in May, now its strongholds are in the East South Central and West North Central States, such as Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, and Mississippi.

If you have a product or service which could be interesting to this target market, there is some marketing potential for Pinterest. I have a client who imports cookware from Sweden. His biggest issue right now is lack of awareness. People just don’t know about the product so they walk right past it in stores. With his Pinterest account, I pin incredible recipes and images of crazy impressive cake competitions. As I build followers, I can occasionally slip in information about the product….but will keep it light. I am building brand awareness among his target audience; cooking professionals and hobbyists.

As far as job seekers are concerned, I can not see the usage model unless you are in a field where your work can be demonstrated visually. If you are a photographer, interior designer, architect, baker, wedding planner, jewelry designer, graphic artist, etc. you can use Pinterest as a free web site to show samples of your work. It is a alternative to using a free, basic site like Weebly.com but it does not give you the same option to include a paragraph describing your work. Pinterest is fast to assemble and very visually rich. It will give the viewer a concentrated look at your work. If you have a lot of good stuff, you will blow them away.

If you are in marketing or communications, you need to be aware of this platform. You should create an account and give it a test run. You are going to look pretty bush league if you can not talk intelligently about this social media platform. Smart people are predicting that this will replace Facebook and will have a major impact on the Internet.

If you need an invitation to join Pinterest, drop me an email.

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
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development


Overcoming the “Field of Dreams” Approach

What follows is an article I wrote for a local business publication.  Most or all of this also applies to you as a job seeker.

If you build it will they come?

Overcoming the “Field of Dreams” approach

Unfortunately the business world is littered with the remnants of many promising companies that failed to recognize the significance of persistant sales.  Despite great products, a small company must persist through the sales process if they are to have any hope of surviving. Far too many entrepreneurs assume that if they built it, customers will come. Most smaller companies aren’t adequately funded and run their bank accounts dry before any significant business comes their way.

Small business owners and executives are usually too busy developing their product or service to give enough attention to reaching decision makers who might buy their wares. They think that simply being visible is going to generate business. This motivates them to develop a web page, create some handout materials and spread the word among people they know. When they realize that no one is seeking them out, the decision is made to increase visibility by going where the key decisions makers are looking for information. They start giving presentations at seminars, writing contributed articles for trade publications, joining trade groups and going to trade shows.

People do not naturally assimilate general information and turn it into an understanding as to how it will benefit them. Customers must be guided to this understanding and then encouraged to make a buying decision. It seems counter intuitive, but intelligent business people can not seem to “connect the dots.” This is why the savvy entrepreneur needs to perfect a pitch that includes features, advantages and benefits.  In other words, draw the picture for the customer and explain how their solution will help them turn a profit. After initial failure to attract adequate attention, these small companies will“idiot proof” their message so it can not be missed.

In the instance where decision makers are reached and interest generated, there is often too little follow up. Business owners wait for the person to contact them. After all, the busy executive said they would follow up and no one wants to appear to be “pushy.” After waiting a long time, the small company will finally contact the prospective customer. If they can not get through after several tries, most will give up.  They assume that the prospect has simply lost interest or was never really interested in the first place.

In reality, closing the deal can be a lengthy process. Even with a truly interested customer, the road to success can be a long one. I’ve developed a list of five common set-backs in the sales process of start-ups and small companies:

“What we got here is a failure to communicate.”

Product developers are excited about their new product or service and assume that the benefits of it are clearly visible. All too often, developers expect that people will imediately see the significance of their product. In reality, customers may need more time just to understand the offering. For this reason, the company message must be clear enough so that the prospect is not required to talk themselves into liking the product. The sales pitch must explain how the product or service will save precious resources; generally time or money.

Assuming that they like you….they really like you…

It is easy to misunderstand the prospect’s level of interest. Being simply “interested” may mean that they are only entertained by the demonstration, concept or presentation. The company representative needs to learn to qualify the interest to prevent wasted effort. Some deals are never going to move forward because the prospect can not see a specific benefit derived from the offering.

One is better than two.

Particularly in partnerships, there is a failure to make “following up” one person’s job. Both the seller and the prospect will return to the office after a trade show or seminar and get back into their routine. Unless “closing the deal” is part of someone’s routine, chances are, nothing new will happen. One person must be assigned responsibility to follow up with the prospect until the deal either closes or falls through and that person must be held accountable regularly. It can not be a team effort or no one will be required to face the team on a weekly basis and explain why they did not follow through.

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Of course, a major failure is the lack of “persistent sales.” Rarely will the sales person get through the first time. They will have to repeatedly follow up. There is a sticking point which needs to be overcome before the two parties develop a smooth working relationship which generates income. Multiple meetings may be required and additional people may need to be brought into the process. Most or all of these people will need to be satisfied before the deal can be closed. You have to persist beyond this “sticking point” until the deal has enough momentum to close.

“All that is gold does not glitter.”

And finally, there is a temptation to chase the next hot prospect. It is so easy to lose confidence that the deal is ever going to close. When that next great prospect emerges, it is so hard to not chase them. To continue calling a prospect and never getting through or to continue having conference calls were everyone seems to be finding reasons to not close the deal; it just seems like wasted effort. When another promising opportunity emerges, it feels so logical to put all effort into making that new deal happen, only to end up, a few weeks later, at the same point in the sales process.

We have all seen ballgames where a new game plan is required to turn things around. A shuffling of the line-up, so to speak, can re-set the game and cause a team to reemerge with momentum in their favor. Here are a list of game changing solutions that can also give businesses the winning edge

Clarify your sales presentation.

Make sure the benefits of your product or service are crystal clear to the decision maker who is often multi-tasking and isn’t fully attentive. I have noticed that a major benefit of going to a trade show is not so much the ability to excite a handful of prospects. After all, trade shows with booths, shipping, handouts and travel are expensive. Your return on investment can be pretty slim. The real benefit is the opportunity to test market a sales message to a small sample of a target audience. About halfway through any show, sales people become much more effective in selling since they have successfully honed their message with real prospects.

Separate the wheat from the chaff.

I have seen really good sales people turn skeptics into customers. However, it takes extra work and the initial order is usually pretty small. With less effort and better results, they can close the sale with a customer who is truly interested. Hiring a good sales person is not always an option for a small company. The sales role is going to fall on someone. I’d suggest applying Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 rule) so attention is given to the “vital few” and not to the “trivial many.” So many prospects (80%) are going to consume too much effort for too little result (20%). A small business can not afford to spend scarce resources without stellar results. By sorting out which prospects are serious, wasted effort is avoided. One suggestion I would offer is to simply try to close the deal as quickly as makes sense.  Those uncomfortable with the sales process are generally reluctant to quickly close a deal by simply asking for the sale. Promptly asking for the business at the appropriate time will shorten the sales cycle and quickly weed out uninterested prospects.

Put someone on the hook

This should be pretty obvious. There is little discomfort in shared blame. Make the responsibility for following up and closing the deal, one person’s job and make them report to the group regularly. Having someone on the hook to drive the deal can be uncomfortable but it makes all the difference. Be ready to ask (and have answers for) the tough questions like, “Why have you not reached them?,” or, “What methods should we be using to reach them?” Noone wants to be the bad guy, but when it comes to survival of the company, everyone will need to toughen up or face the consequences.

Make a plan to stick with it

We have all heard, “Plan your work and work your plan.” The same goes with making a plan  for following up with a great prospect. Make a plan on how and even how often you will follow up with a prospect. Decide early on what methods and collateral you will use to gain their attention and build a relationship along the way. Then devise a tracking system and stick with it. Little which is worthwhile happens without a plan. When it comes to your livelihood, planning to succeed should be paramount.

Know When to say “When”

There will be a time when it must be accepted that the deal is never going to “make.” The interest may be there but the funding may be lacking. Or, the prospect may simply be too busy or lack the authority. However, it may be that there is serious intent to buy but the process is lengthy and an occasional reminder will keep things moving forward. Therefore, it is best to plan for a gradual reduction in frequency. Rather than pelting the prospect every day for two weeks then walking away, it is better to contact them two or three times a week for a couple of weeks, then reduce contact to once a week. Eventually, you will be following up once a month until it is determined that the deal is dead. You need to know when to say “when” but don’t say “when” too soon.

I suggest that those in need of sales efficiency get a mentor or form an accountability group with other like minded professionals. Chosen partners can help you hold yourself accountable to persist until a deal is closed. And on the flip side, they should be able to help you point out that your field of dreams may never materialize and it is time to move on.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

LinkedIn Changes to Make Now

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a friend who is a networking machine. He is reaching out to every Dallas area recruiter he can find on LinkedIn. Then he meets with them face-to-face. It is paying off for him. He is getting interviews. He also spent considerable time with one of the most knowledgeable experts on LinkedIn, this side of the Rockies. I thought I knew a lot about LinkedIn, but I learned a lot of new stuff in a short amount of time.

The first thing is your name. This is a trick that a lot of people are catching on to. Go to your settings (it is a drop down menu that you access by going to your name in the upper right hand corner). Go down the right side of the screen to “Helpful Links” and select “Edit your name, location & industry.” You are going to want to change your  last name.  You want to make this a branding statement. Don’t just be Frank Torbin. If you are a CPA, change your last name to “Torbin, CPA.” My last name, according to LinkedIn, is “Snider, MBA Marketing.”

The next thing you might want to change is your Professional “Headline.”  I had my headline as “Business Development Director” because that is my current job title. Wrong! This should be your dream job title. For me, that is “Director of Marketing” or “Marketing Director.” It makes a difference which one you choose. This is where you are going to need to do a little quick research. Go to the People search in the upper right hand corner and test out the different job titles for the job you want. For me, I tried “Director of Marketing” and “Marketing Director.” When I did the search, I included the parenthesis. I do this because you want LinkedIn to see that job title as one keyword. If you just enter Marketing Director, then LinkedIn will find every occurrence of Marketing or Director. I am not really interested in people who were Band Directors and Marketing Coordinators.I want to find all Marketing Directors.

As it turns out, there are 218,923 “Director of Marketing” and 278,439 “Marketing Director.” You want to use the job title which gets the largest number of search results. You may think that is counter intuitive. You want to stand out, so why bury yourself in the largest group of results? The reason is, hiring mangers and recruiters fish in the pond with the most fish. Get yourself into that pond.

My friend recommends that you update your profile every day, once, between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM. You do this from the Home page (the page that LinkedIn shows you first when you log on). There is a field right next to your photograph called “Share an update.” You might post a hot news story related to your field. For me, that is easy. I am in marketing. Social media marketing is a hot topic and there is plenty of news to share each day. For you, that might not be so easy. I hope you belong to some groups on LinkedIn related to your profession. You can see what is being discussed on those groups and pick a topic or article to share. You are doing this for two reasons: you want people to know you stay current and you want people to be reminded that you exist. Out of sight, out of mind. If I want to hire a PMP, it helps if every morning when I get to work and pull up LinkedIn, I see Larry Schmidt, PMP sharing some hot topic gleaned from the Master Black Belt group. I might want to take a look at Larry’s LinkedIn profile.

My friend also blew everything I know about recommendations. He told me that I must get two recommendations for every job (or at least the jobs from the past 15 years). I’d been told that one recommendation bestows a little extra juice for the keywords found in a particular job profile. My friend said, “Two recommendations, twice as much juice.” The best way to do this is to reach out to a former boss and say, “Would you mind giving me a recommendation on LinkedIn? I have written something you might find useful as a starting point…” then you write your own recommendation. 9 times out of 10, they will post what you wrote with few or no changes…unless you went crazy and stated things that just were not at all true.

The last thing I want to mention is your volunteer work.  Edit your profile and right below the gray box that gives a quick overview of your history, there is a blue section called “Add sections.” Click on that and find “Volunteer Experience & Causes.” Select that and enter any volunteer work you do. According to an article in Fast Company, people who volunteer, get hired faster. I won’t go into the details from the article, but you should add uncontroversial volunteer work you do. I would shy away from mentioning any work you do for political candidates (as an example).

This is also a place where you can enter your “causes.” Once again, proceed with caution. Habitat for Humanity is a pretty safe cause. Occupy Wallstreet….you might not get invited in for an interview.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

 James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

Phone call from Andreas

When I first moved from software engineering into semiconductor marketing, I was given the assignment of promoting a new technology (FireWire). This technology had been slow to take off and management was running low on patience. For a couple of years, they had been told that success was imminent. Soon we would start giving them some return on their considerable investment. With a small marketing team assigned to make this happen, we had to be careful how we spent our time. The rule of thumb was that we should never talk to anyone who did not have the potential of placing a 100,000 unit order. There were plenty of small start-ups that wanted to develop FireWire enabled products, but we simply lacked the resources to deal with all of them. Besides, it took exactly the same amount of time to send samples to Sony or Dell as it did to send samples to Bob who is developing a new product on his kitchen table. Chances were good that Sony or Dell would eventually order 100,000 units. Chances were equally good that Bob would never amount to anything.

It was with this mindset that I answered my first phone call from Andreas. He wanted samples and was willing to pay for them. However, he worked for a company I’d never heard of. I brushed him off. The next week, I received another phone call from Andreas. Same request. Same friendly, unassuming tone of voice. Same result. I brushed him off. This went on for months. I quit picking up the phone and let it go to voice mail. Every week, I heard the same friendly, humble request. “I would like just a few samples. I am willing to pay for them. Please call me back…”

One day at our staff meeting, one of the other marketers said, “Who is Andreas? I am getting a phone call from him every week asking for samples.” I responded, “Me too!” The other marketing guy responded that he also got weekly calls from Andreas. Somehow, Andreas had figured out who the three FireWire marketing guys were and made weekly phone calls to each of us. We all agreed that we admired his persistence and that he was always nice about his request, even though it had been going on for a few months with no results. One of us said, “We should just give him some samples. Don’t charge him…just give them to him. He has been so nice about it and he obviously wants them badly.” We all agreed and Andreas got his samples.

As it turns out, Andreas was the president of this small company we’d never heard of. He was developing a debugging tool to help people who were designing FireWire into their products. This was something we’d never even thought about. And, as it turns out, was vitally important to the success of the technology. If Andreas had never gotten his samples, the roll out of FireWire products would have been delayed again and my management would have pulled the plug on the whole project.

Andreas went on to become a major player in the FireWire industry and to build a successful company which he sold for a small fortune. Years later, I was in town on business and gave him a call to see if he wanted to get together for dinner. He was delighted and picked me up in his shiny red Viper. As we drove to dinner in his $65,000 car (this was a few years ago), I related to him the story of the staff meeting where we decided to send him the samples he’d requested so many times. Then I asked him, “How did you remain so nice after we ignored you for so long?” He responded, “I was nobody from a company you’d never heard of. I desperately needed your product to be successful. I had nothing to offer you and you had everything I needed. All I could do was to be nice and ask again.” The tone of his voice let me know that he was still that guy. Viper not withstanding. He was still that guy I heard on the other end of the phone so many years ago asking once again, nicely, if I would please sell him some samples.

Andreas did two things right. He was nice and he was persistent. When you come across that great job that you really want, you should persist. Check out the company Facebook page. Web pages give you business information (product lines, sales locations, press releases, documentation….) Facebook (if it is done right) will give you interesting information about the company (charities they support, corporate team building events, mentions in the major press, industry trends…)  which will make for a much more interesting interview.

Check out the company on LinkedIn. If the company is a small one, you will probably be able to figure out who just left the company, making the opening you are interviewing for. Do a “People” search, but enter the company name instead of a person’s name. This will show you who works for the company and who worked (past tense) there.  If you determine who your predecessor was, look them up on LinkedIn. Tell them you are interviewing for their old job and invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn. Then set up a call. I have done this twice and found the people to be willing to talk and ready to share extremely useful information.

Once you actually have the interview,  mail a “thank you” note ASAP. Call a few days later. Invite the hiring manager to LinkIn with you. Even if they turn you down, stay nice and keep in touch. I heard somewhere that 30% of people who are hired, leave after 3 months. I am not sure if that is the case in the current economy but I have seen a number of people return to Southlake Focus after a few months because the job was just not right. Mail or email a note to the recruiter and the people with whom you interviewed a couple of  months after your interview. Let them know that  you are still interested in the company.

Follow them on Twitter and retweet them. Comment on their blog. There are so many things you can do to keep in touch. Be persistent and be nice.

Good luck and Godspeed.

 James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

The Value of Forgotten Things

Life is full of ups and downs and a series of comebacks. During one particularly bad period in my life, my son told me something that lifted me out of a low and taught me something which has led to many comebacks. He said, “Do you remember that time up in Seattle when we played Stratego in the back of that SUV? That is one of my favorite childhood memories.”

If I’d had to guess, I would have never picked that event to be anyone’s favorite memory. It was not winning the science fair. It was not our trip to Barcelona. It was not the praise he received after screening his first amateur claymation. It was a routine task that he and I did together. It was an event that was quickly fading from my memory.

The event he made reference to occurred during a business trip I made to Redmond to visit Microsoft. I brought my family with me as a makeshift vacation. They found things to do during the day while I was in meetings. About halfway through the trip, we ran low on clean clothes. My son and I gathered a trash bag of dirty laundry and set off to find a laundromat. That was not easy, as the area around Microsoft is fairly affluent.

We found a laundry room facing the parking lot of an inexpensive hotel. The facility was intended for hotel guests and required a room key to gain access. We waited until a hotel guest walked up and tailgated into the laundry room. Then we devised a way to gain access back into the room by propping the door open just a little…but not enough to attract attention. Then we went back to the rental car, an SUV. We lowered the tailgate and played a couple of games of Stratego while the laundry washed and dried.

To me, the evening had been about washing clothes. To my son, the evening had been about playing Stratego with his dad.

When you are 9 years old, one-on-one with a significant adult can be special. However, I think what made this event stand out in my son’s mind was the sense of adventure. He’d seen his mom wash clothes many times at home. This time, he and his dad were on a hunt. We were hunting for a laundromat. We were hunting for locations which looked like they might have a laundromat. My son had never been aware of laundromats, much less the fact that there are certain locations where they were more likely to be found. Once we found one, gaining access into the laundry room was a whole new game of strategy…with some mystery and stealth…and a tiny bit of danger (in the mind of a 9 year old).

To cap it all off, we played his favorite board game in yet another unusual location; the back of a really cool SUV.

I’d known this kid for 9 years and knew the joy he could bring to every situation. He saw life as an adventure. A speed bump in the parking lot just had to be walked across like a balance beam. When studying for a history test, he answered sample questions as if retelling a scene from a novel. At the grocery store, toy guns would materialize in his hands as he would leap around corners and shoot storm troopers.

I knew, that night in Redmond, that we were on an adventure together: hunting for the laundromat, gaining access, playing his favorite board game. But over the years, the grind of adult living had reduced the memory to simply washing laundry. For me….but not for him. He still remembered the adventure and treasured it.

So here we are, in what we hope is the continuing recovery from the Great Recession. We have weathered something that economist predict will be discussed for years to come. For those of us who lost our jobs, laid people off, or struggled through a sharp decline in business, we have participated in a piece of world history. It did not feel much like history. It felt painful, demoralizing, frightening and humbling. Some of us have learned new skills, obtained new certifications and branched out in new directions. I have been forced w-a-y out of my comfort zone and taken on things I would have never done if I’d remained comfortably employed. I am banking on the fact that I am now much better suited to the new economy than my friends who spent the last two years doing what they have always done.

In the middle of this struggle, however, I have not forgotten the lesson I learned from my son. I am embracing this change with a sense of adventure. It has made this trying time easier to manage. It has helped me remain constructive in my attack on the problems and not despairing. It has also helped me to remain positive and even upbeat. I think I will look back on this time and say, “Yes, that hurt, but it was a game changer. If I could have only seen the endgame, the journey would have been exciting.”

I hope that you can find your path through your current situation. You may discover that one of your loved ones will point back to this time with fondness. One of their favorite memories may come from the Great Recession when you took them with you on a mundane task. A task that the two of you approached with a sense of adventure.

 James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

It wasn’t supposed to be like this…

Today, with unemployment stuck at 9.1% and the President speaking to Congress about the latest job creation plan, my father emailed me a group of pictures from 1935 – 1939; The Great Depression.

There is plenty to be down about today. As if being unemployed in the Great Recession were not bad enough…

The worst wildfires in the history of Texas are raging near Bastrop, TX, just 30 miles east of Austin (my home town).

View of Bastrop fires from Austin, TX

View of Bastrop fires from my sister's house (in Bastrop)

It was announced today that Texas experienced the hottest summer on record for any place in the USA, replacing the summer of 1934 in Oklahoma. Places like Arizona, which get hotter during the day, cool off at night. Temperatures stayed in the 80s all night long this summer in Dallas.

In addition to the record heat, we are also in the middle of the worst drought in Texas history. Water restrictions are in place.

I attended a lecture today where I saw a list of jobs on the “endangered list.” Over the next five years sales, travel agents, teachers, law clerks, proof readers…will all see a net loss in jobs. Near the bottom of the list (i.e. the “bad” end of the list) were marketers, with a projected decline of 32.7%. One third of all marketing jobs are going away over the next 5 years. These are being replaced with “crowdsourcing” where projects are posted to web sites and people around the world compete for the work. Need a logo? Post the request to Logo Tournament. Need a web page or collateral? Post the request to 99Designs. Talented people from Brazil, Romania, Vietnam, etc. submit  bids and you select the one you like the best. So much for middle aged marketers …like  me.

I could go on, but as I sit in a comfortable chair, in an air conditioned public library, with clean clothes, enough to eat, bills paid and a car to drive home (with all the windows, A/C, radio/CD player and a half tank of gas) I think it is better to reflect on what my parents endured during the Great Depression. These images tell the story.

Now, having seen where we were in 1939, keep in mind that more millionaires were made, coming out of the Great Depression, than at any other time in our country’s history. Look for the opportunities. They will be there.

You may need help in finding them, getting started, or achieving “lift velocity.” I find LinkedIn to be useful. There are scores of groups for start-ups, entrepreneurs, protean corporations, consultants, local business networking, etc. Join a bunch of those, read the articles, follow the discussions and ask questions.  Determine which ones do not work for you, drop them and add some more.

Keep in mind, very little will just come to you. You will have to go out and find it. Become active in a few groups on LinkedIn so when you ask a question, you are not a stranger. People help people they know….so become known on your LinkedIn college alumni group(s) and other groups you find interesting or helpful.

Stick with it. As in fishing, you are going to bait several hooks, lose the bait a few times, get a few strikes that don’t take and sit there with your line dead in the water. You will need to change your location, time of day, bait, etc before you catch anything. Stick with it.

And if nothing works, seek help. There are coaches out there that might do you some good, but my best advice is to find two or three other entrepreneurs and form an accountability group. This will be a group that can give you advice, tell you what worked for them and hold your feet to the fire until you do what you said you would do.

I know. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. You should have never had to face a lay off or an impossible job market or that cyber blackhole where resumes disappear. You should have a new job by now. Hiring managers should understand that you can do the job even if your experience is a couple of years old. Your “safe job” should have never moved overseas or fallen victim to crowdsourcing. No, and hard working families should have never faced the Dust Bowl, lived in cardboard shacks, tents and Model Ts and endured 10 years of a crushing financial depression followed by a horrifying world war. But they did….and you are. Now it is time to do something about it.

If you are considering doing a start-up, let me suggest a piece I did on why start-ups fail: Overcoming the “Field of Dreams” Approach.

Good luck and Godspeed.

 James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944