Tag Archives: Southlake Focus Group

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.


Building Your LinkedIn Network For The Future


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

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 Christmas Season…Bah! Humbug!

If you have been out of work for very long, you are probably aware that the best hiring season is between the start of school and Thanksgiving.  For the remainder of the year (post Thanksgiving) hiring slows down to a crawl.  It does not go away entirely and there is some benefit to staying active in the job search during this “slow season” since so many people take the month of December entirely off.

Personally, the site of no presents under the tree spurs me on to find those scant jobs and to be anything but idle during December.

Recently, I attended the “Career Solutions Workshop” which was started by David Rawls, a good friend to job seekers in the Dallas – Fort Worth area.  On this particular night, I had the pleasure of hearing Cory Walden speak.  Cory is also a great friend to job seekers as he heads up the Southlake Focus Group.

Cory deviated from his prepared comments briefly to share some insight that I found to be particularly useful considering the season we are headed into.  Along with applying for jobs we find on the internet, working with search firms, networking with job seekers and conducting informational interviews, Cory suggested that we should be actively improving our profiles on the major job boards AND on company web sites!

This is something I was doing instinctively during this “Start of school to Thanksgiving” hiring season. I wish I’d thought to have posted this to this blog last August. How many of you would be interviewing weekly if you’d been simply updating your profiles on the job websites of your target companies?

It is obvious, but when Cory said this, it was the first time I’d ever heard that said out loud.  People talk about keeping your profile fresh on Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs. A profile that has not been updated in a month is almost worthless. What makes us think that the profile we set up on the Dell website when we applied for a job 6 months ago is still being reviewed?

I know what you are think, “Those statements about keeping my resume on file are bogus. Once I’ve been turned down, my resume goes in the trash.”  However,  from what I hear (from a dozen or so informational interviews at Dell), recruiters do search the database of resumes “on file.”  They would rather find you than to post a job on the job boards and wade through a 1,000 (mostly worthless) resumes.  I know a guy at Southlake who was hired by Dell in precisely this fashion.

OK, team. Turkeyday is right around the corner. It is time for us to prepare. What are we going to do in the month of December to prepare us to be the first person hired in January? I will talk about this in my next several posts, but in the meantime, start working your way through those profiles you created when you applied for jobs at your target companies. I bet that a lot of you are going to find things that make you say, “Oh! No wonder I am not getting any attention here….look at what I did.”

James Snider
Global Business Development and Social Media Marketing
Anyone can give you social media.  I make sure it’s marketing.

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LinkedIn and Fishing

I was leading a LinkedIn Q&A at Southlake Focus earlier this week. One attendee indicated that he was frustrated with LinkedIn because he could not get one of his neighbors to accept his invitation to LinkIn.  His question was, “How can I get him to accept my invitation?”

The panel of LinkedIn “experts” was comprised of Jim Frinak, Erik Johnson and me.  We, of course, indicated that the questioner should find other people to connect with and not focus so much attention on one person.

LinkedIn is suited to people who are looking for a new job or people who are looking to hire.  A friend or neighbor who has a stable job with no intention to leave any time soon will not normally be spending much time on LinkedIn. They are frequently slow to respond since they probably skipped the emailed invitation. Unless they are familiar with LinkedIn, they probably assumed that it takes more than a simple click to connect to someone.

I frequently find people who are stuck on some minor detail with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and feel that they just can not move forward until they (for example) understand what they should enter into the “Location” field….do they enter “Grapevine” or “DFW, Texas” or “Dallas – Fort Worth”…do they spell out “Fort” in “Ft. Worth” and do they spell “Texas” or just enter “TX”…

I also find people who are ready to write off LinkedIn because “It does not work.” What you find out is that they tried to connect to a person 3 connections away through their network and they were not successful. Or, they asked someone for a recommendation and the person never got around to it.

I feel like asking, “If you went fishing and the fish were not biting, would you say that fishing does not work?  Of course not! You would change bait, change locations, come back on a different day or a different  time of day. You would ask someone where to go and what lures or bait seem to work there.”

You need to do the same thing with LinkedIn. Try different things. Be creative.

I bet some of you are cursing LinkedIn because you can not figure out which of the 11,580 “Bob Jones” on LinkedIn is your old boss from 15 years ago…and you probably have “creative problem solver” on your resume(!) Use that skill to solve your LinkedIn problems.

Might even make a good SAR story for that next interview.

James Snider
Global Business Development and Social Media Marketing
Anyone can give you social media.  I make sure it’s marketing.

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