When we finally land, we must stop and look around. To see how far we've gone.
NOTE: If you don’t have time for my rambling, scroll to the bottom for lessons I’ve learned. These bullet points can help you land the job you are looking for.
When I left my position, nobody could believe it. Most people said, “I give you props, that takes a lot of guts” or “That’s amazing you are taking a risk to better your life and be where you feel is a good fit.” Statements like that felt empowering, motivational and reinforced the decision I had made…for about 5 seconds. After those prideful 5 seconds, your inner voice starts talking. My inner voice is my best friend and my worst enemy, it can make or break us. REMEMBER, your inner voice is dangerous and helpful. Most people told me to go travel the world or at least North America. Although I saved, I didn’t feel I saved enough for leisurely travel. I was starting to wonder why I made the decision I had? I spent my nights and early mornings in conversation with God, writing in my journal and reading books voraciously on positive topics. One of the first things I noticed is that I started having vivid dreams again! They weren’t prophetic or anything. My dreams were still random thoughts that make you wonder, what was I thinking about last night? Dreams of people from your past and then flying or chasing a talking dog that is wearing your human clothes; just examples of course! Although I didn’t regret my decision, after many months of thinking; I felt I hadn’t prepared enough for a decision as paramount as this. I know many people including myself say, “Money isn’t everything” or “Money is the root of all evil.” With that being said, it is comedic how many times I thought about it and checked my online account. I was fretting and saw myself possibly running out very fast. Then during my first week of unemployment I realized I was getting a “generous” amount of taxes back, a healthy company profit sharing check and two weeks of pay = Oxygen. Have you ever been under water too long and start to feel that panic throughout your entire body to breathe? The carbon dioxide is building higher and higher, your heart rate accelerates into a pounding. A feeling of burning or aching comes from your chest. Then when you reach the surface, you are able to take a deep cleansing breath, filling your lungs with fresh air. That’s how I felt when I received three substantial checks in one week. Thank God.
One thing we will all be doing in life, whether we like it or not is learn more about ourselves. Most people probably don’t consciously think about it and journal their findings; I’m unique. I am always a sucker when it comes to the Myers-Briggs personality test. There are free tests online and they are fairly scary sometimes with the results. My type has changed throughout the years ENTJ/INTJ, my most recent and accurate result was ISFJ. So there are four different sections that describe your personality. It said that although I am naturally an introvert, I am the most extroverted introvert. I can build relationships with almost anyone and can start a conversation with a stranger like I have known them since birth. True story. I think a test like this is beneficial for anyone, and you can take it as you will. We are all unique and you cannot categorize the entire world with 16 personalities, I understand that. I used www.16personalities.com, you can also purchase a profile of your type. It is over 100 pages about your specific type. I’m glad I did it, it gave me a better description of my personality with the pros and cons.
An interesting free test, who are you above?
I started delving back into the book What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles, given to me from a past client and friend. It is the best job hunting book ever written, in my humble opinion. It may not put you on a single path the rest of your life, but is full of helpful information. Please also note that this book is updated every year, to change with the economy etc. They give tips on career paths, resumes, interviews and networking. It will show you what your chances are of getting an interview depending on the tactic of job hunting you choose to initiate. It is a reference that I think serious job hunters should have in their arsenal. I also read: The Hope Quotient, Mindset, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, We Were Soldiers Once and Young, The Gift of Adversity, The Heart and the Fist, David and Goliath and Fearless; just to be reading. I’m sure that I’m missing some and I am also reading now. Reading was not only an escape but an exposure to other people’s experiences and how they handled their lives. During trials in my life I also read Proverbs and Psalms of the bible. Sometimes all you can do is just look up and ask for direction. Reading is something I didn’t take the time to do when I was cranking out long hours behind a desk. I think reading benefits the unemployed explorer. Stay sharp, busy and create structure.
Structure, this is very important when being unemployed. Richard Bolles said that most people quit applying for jobs after two weeks, due to burnout and a small percentage of responses. When I read that I thought, people give up after two weeks? I then started feeling my drive dropping at the two week mark, you have to keep pushing. Just as when I received a promotion I wanted to go against the grain and spent less money; when I left my position I created structure for myself. I shaved and kept my hair short on most days, at least I felt ready to go somewhere and presentable. I spent countless hours in my “office”, the St. Louis County Library. I always run to the “Reference” or “Quiet Area”. They had Wi-Fi and of course books on every topic under the sun. They opened and closed at nine during the week. I would wake up, drink some coffee and head to my office. I would park in the same spot every day and wait for the doors to open. The same people became familiar to me, other job hunters. It was nice to associate and work alongside other people seeking employment. Sometimes I would bring a small snack or run and get lunch. The reason I did this is because I know myself well enough to know a house would not be enough structure for a focused job hunt. But as time went on and I kept applying for positions without responses, I read something in the Parachute book. Without charts, figures and statistics; NETWORKING is the #1 way to get a job. Remember the saying, “Its not always WHAT you know but WHO you know.” I’m not saying this is ethically right, but it’s the way of our world. If you are job hunting, think about who you know and TALK to them!
This book was recommended to me by a business success, not a coincidence.
Jessi’s family knew someone that had a good stable job working at a major cement plant south of St. Louis. Apparently the stretch of the Mississippi south of St. Louis has some of the richest lime deposits in the world! In other words, job stability. So I emailed, texted and talked to this friend. I applied for the job, took tests and surveys. I studied the company and what they could offer. I applied online, then had to apply in person and then had to do a personality/intelligence test. After these steps, I got an interview! Five men interviewed me and hammered me with questions. They stated the position they had open was for a laborer and kept stating I was over qualified. I stated that if there was opportunity for advancement and a stable future I would seriously consider it. They made me aware that I would work 12 hour shifts that change every 7 days. One gentleman said that “If I wanted to see every home run that little Johnny hits, I won’t.” They said the job can be hard on a man and his family. I had a long list of questions for them as well. They also asked behavioral questions. NOTE: Study and understand what behavioral interviewing questions are, your response is vital. They predict you future behavior by listening about your past behavior. After interviewing me for one hour, I received a call the next day to take a drug test. I politely told them they literally talked me out of the job, probably their motive. I don’t mind getting dirty and working hard but this didn’t seem like the lifestyle that would work for me.
I was also in contact with a great friend who is a private business consultant, specializing in processes and work place culture. She has been a vital link for years and I am very grateful for her input throughout my life. She copied me on an email and set up a meeting with me and a friend of hers. It was to be a fairly casual meeting for advice and input on career options. He specialized in sales, his background was in chemical and mechanical engineering. One thing to remember is you never know who you are going to meet, so dress sharp, feel sharp and be sharp! We met at St. Louis Bread Co and I bought him lunch. He was a very interesting guy with a lot of knowledge about a lot of things. He had worked in many industries and seemed to settle into sales and consulting. We talked for over an hour and he mentioned that I needed to work with people. We talked about some select companies in St. Louis and what I could possibly do for them, with my experience. I was happy I met him and he kept in touch with me throughout my hunt. One company we talked about which I was already honing in on was Graybar Electric. He happened to have a contact there and I called him to ask him 20 questions. I also talked to a couple other people that knew him. Networking seemed to work, at least to start conversations within certain companies. “Put a bug in their ear”, that’s what people used to tell me. Be interested and let them know your name.
Sometimes we have to take a break and find balance in our work. Then we will realize the beautiful things that were right in front of us the whole time.
Every day I would search job boards and see the same jobs. I would try to think of new networking contacts. Sometimes I thought I should have taken the 12 hour shifts at the lime plant, jobs were hard to come by! Because of my support system and ability to be frugal, my urgency didn’t push me into future regret. My motivation seemed to be decreasing and that’s when I started picking up side jobs. I would search for jobs 3-4 days a week and work on other days. I dug up tree stumps, organic gardening, landscaping, cleaned guns, painted patio furniture, and more. One day I was tired of job hunting and went home, I got a call to make quick money! I had to deliver four packets of finished taxes for $100 cash, the easiest money I have ever made. I was grateful to have a chance to work with Jessi’s dad. His business is ASAP Gutters and he installs, repairs and cleans gutters. If you ever need work done, I’ll let him know! It is very humbling when people know you don’t have a steady job and are thinking of ways to pay you for work. I went from managing one of the largest service departments in the country (32 million dollars in equipment) to painting patio furniture. This creates a humbled person. It’s good for us to be vulnerable and humbled at times. Do you think an Olympic athlete is comfortable during the years of training leading up to the games? Do you think that Navy Seals are comfortable going through BUDS training, preparing for the darkest places on the face of the Earth? Comfort is something that is sold everywhere today, its common. I myself live very comfortably, I’ll admit it. I like A/C, I like hot water and I like my electronics. It was not comfortable to give up authority, a salary, a company truck and free gas to explore my options in this life. This reminds me of a verse I read during this job hunt. James 1:2-4 “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Sometimes it seems we have to go through the fire in life to build better character and focus.
Find time to reset, recharge and get re-motivated.
Two companies I was focusing on were Graybar and Nestle Purina. I contacted over 25 people while attempting to network for Graybar. In all I applied for nearly 60 jobs in three months. I also listed each job title, the company and the date I applied. If I received a rejection then I would write the date and draw a line through it. Some of those applications were out of desperation to be honest with you. At times I just wanted a job! Why didn’t anyone call me back or sent me rejection emails? I made nearly straight A’s, have recommendations and proof of my ability to make a difference in the workplace! What was wrong with me? Remember that inner voice we all have? Be careful. I would job hunt/network, work and go hiking. I often hiked the Chubb Trail located between Lone Elk Park and West Tyson Park in south St. Louis. It was four hours to be free and thankful for my life. I would job hunt in the AM and hike in the PM. I was able to spend a mild and beautiful Spring outside. I went fishing, hiking, hunting and was still networking. I then was told a friend of mine from high school that grew up down the street from me worked at Graybar! I immediately called him and asked him 20 questions. I mentioned that I was trying to focus on getting an interview with Graybar and he said, “Graybar is taking over man!” He had all positive things to say about the company and benefits. He was getting ready to transfer to Kansas City, MO. with them. He mentioned that the hiring process was extremely thorough, and could take a while. He couldn’t get me an interview but let me use him as a reference. I applied for positions that seemed transferable from my old job. Customer Service, Inventory Planner and Sales Trainee are what I chose. At the same time Nestle Purina contacted me about my application with them. Remember that when you apply for a position, so are at least 100 others. It takes time, especially if there are multiple openings. BE PATIENT, everyone kept saying that. I was ready to show anyone and everyone how hard I could work! It will likely take at least 1-2 weeks to hear a reply from a job application. Unfortunately the days of waiting on the doorstep and shaking the company owners hand to get hired is near extinction. I also contacted a Graybar recruiter on LinkedIn to ask his professional advice for starting a career with Graybar. He was extremely kind and answered all of my questions and gave me some advice too. I’m glad I reached out to him, he forwarded my name to HR.
Through the process of leaving my company and job hunting I went through an array of emotions. Relieved, unsure, panicked, hopeful, desperate, hopeful, hopeless, motivated, happy, hopeless, excited, exhausted, hopeful, humbled, motivated, unsure, hopeful and satisfied. I read blogs about people feeling the same thing! I just knew I had a choice every morning, stay in bed or get up and do something! To say that I was 100% driven every single day and never doubted myself would be a lie. Like Jessi told me, “You’re too young to retire and you’ll get a job soon enough. You put in the time and work.” I had to keep trying. I was contacted by Nestle Purina and Graybar in the same week! I was so excited and wanted to start work immediately! That’s when I tried to remember, BE PATIENT. They contacted me on a Monday to schedule a phone interview for the following week or after. I scheduled them as soon as possible. I knew a friend that used to work for Purina and another friend still there. I contacted both of them via phone and asked 20 questions. They were very helpful and let me know what to expect. Hiring a person is a huge decision, and a very expensive one. The hiring process has changed through the years. Now there are phone interviews, online tests/assessments and the old fashion face to face interviews. It is a process, prepare for it.
Remember the behavioral questions I mentioned earlier? This is a very common screening technique you MUST understand. I wrote over 20 questions and had multiple work experiences for each of them. When they ask you a question such as: “Tell me about a time when your boss was not around and you had to make a business decision. Explain the steps you took and how that turned out.” What they are listening for is a Situation, Action and Outcome. Here is an example answer I would give: “We had a skid steer come back with severely damaged rubber tracks. A salesman had already promised this machine to a customer within the week for a 6 month rental. I had my men take pictures of the damage and save them in our files. I had a mechanic take the damaged tracks off. I priced three vendors and found one that was offering dealer pricing and free shipping within two days! I immediately made the decision to buy the tracks. They showed up the next day and I had a mechanic install them as soon as possible. The machine was rented for 6 months to the customer and I wrote an invoice for the damage to the previous customer.” Remember, I tend to jabber on but short is sweet. They interview people all day long. Remember, SITUATION, ACTION, OUTCOME. Learn it and prepare for it from your past experiences.
One thing that is difficult for me is to brag or make myself look better than anyone else. If you have this same weakness, I have bad news for you. Whether it is a phone or in person interview, you are literally selling yourself. There is a difference between confident and cocky; there is also a difference between assertive and aggressive. I restructured my resume twice during this process. One of my good friends gave me an option to passively prove my ability without bragging. He told me to put a small portfolio together with accomplishments, emails, and recommendations. He told me to put it in a small professional folder and give it to them to have after an interview in person. I took his advice and started browsing through awards, recommendations, emails and accomplishments. I made three copies of this packet and decided I would add their name on the front with their emblem and the date of the interview. I always bring a leather folder to all interviews. Inside this folder is my pen, legal pad with questions for them and a calculator. It is a small thing that looks very organized and professional. I got it from my last company. You have to think of a strategy to prove you are worth looking into, calling or hiring! If I could do it, you can do it.
My first phone interview was at 8 o’clock in the morning with Nestle Purina. We summarized my resume and they asked why I left every single job. Be ready for this, don’t say anything negative. Then they started the behavioral interviewing. I had stories for every question I could possibly think of and felt confident in my answers. I was able to ask the recruiter questions I wanted to know about the company. Throughout the interview I heard her saying, “That’s perfect, perfect!” It made me feel good whether she meant it or not. She explained that if I was chosen for the next stage it would be a 3+ hour interview process of behavioral questioning. She mentioned I would know within 3 days if I would be moving forward. The position was an Order Revenue Management Specialist. I would work with customers such as a giant chain store, I would make sure the orders are placed and delivered as expected. I would resolve any problems in the middle. My second interview was at 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon with Graybar. The recruiter was great to talk to and put me at ease immediately. We reviewed my resume and why I made the changes I had. She asked me behavioral questions which I prepared for with vigor. I was able to ask her questions and learn more about the inside, which I wanted to see so bad. She told me I would get a call within 2 weeks about whether I would be moving forward.
Long story shorter, Nestle Purina didn’t work out. They are a top rated company in St. Louis and give employees the ability to move into different departments and they promote from within. Instead of Graybar calling me in two weeks, they called me in 24 hours for an in person interview! There was still hope for me. I also had a peace about me that if it didn’t work out, I would just keep trying me best. I researched the company and wrote notes about them. I found articles online about them and what they do best. They were started in the mid-1800s and are employee owned. They have over 8,000 employees and over 130,000 customers. They don’t make or repair anything. They purchase, house and distribute over 100,000 electrical supplies for customers across North America. They also seem to do it better than most. They are a Fortune 500 company and highly rated from their own employees. These are just examples of what I learned. When the interview on May 19th at 9:00 o’clock came, I was prepared. I wore a full suit with a tie and brought my leather folder kit and “highlights packet”. The manager was extremely friendly and personable. We reviewed my entire resume and went through reasons why I made the career changes I did. He asked me specific questions about my last position and asked behavioral questions. I had stories of past situations for every question and why I made the decisions I had to. It seemed to go very smooth and I felt confident in my ability. He stated they would contact me within 10 days to know the next step in the process for me, if they were interested. If they called me it would be to set up a Sales Assessment Test online. I remembered to hand him my “Highlight Packet” and said, “This is for you guys to look over whenever you get time, you can have it.” I remembered I felt confident after the Nestle interview also, I must have been wrong? Be conscious of that inner voice, it is dangerous. Graybar called me within 3 hours of my interview and wanted me to take the assessment online. This assessment would determine if I am the right person for the position.
My "Highlight Packet"
I was looking for the assessment the next day, waiting at the library. I never saw it and emailed the hiring manager in the evening. I knew in the past that my email is commonly misspelled, RABBIT vs. RABBITT. The extra T seems to throw people off. I then received the assessment on a Friday. The assessment took me over an hour to complete and screened multiple areas. Personality, analytical skills, math skills and more. That was a long weekend of anticipation. In fact I didn’t hear anything back for about 5 days. Then I received a call from the hiring manager wanting to set up a final interview for the following week. I went into my interview at 10:30am on June 4th. I thought of new questions they could ask me, and new questions I had for them. He said I did better than average on my assessment but he could not show me the scoring. He said that his boss was very impressed with my “Highlight Packet” I put together with their name on the front. He asked me a few behavioral or situational questions. He asked what I had been doing with my time. I told him I had been interviewing and working on the side. After I asked three company related questions, I asked one last question. “You have answered all of my questions, my last question is what is next for me in this process?” He stated, “Well this is where I give you an offer and you tell me yes, no or that you need time.” He told me what they were willing to do for me and asked if I needed time to think about it. Without leaping out of my chair while thinking about the past 101 day journey of self-discovery and perseverance, I accepted the position. I will work in Inside Sales initially, helping customers buy products they need at the best price possible. I will work with contractors, industrial maintenance managers and purchasers. They gave me what I asked for and I will be working Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm. My start date is June 29th, giving me the ability to go to Destin, FL for my grandma’s 90th birthday party. We are going to be surf fishing and relaxing by the beach, Jessi is flying down midweek to join us. Nothing but blessed and grateful to all the people in my life and God. My parents and girlfriend Jessi were my positive reinforcement that I was doing the right thing for myself. Life is not perfect and I will have challenges and trials ahead, but my belief in my own ability to overcome, persevere and succeed has inscreased. I passed up opportunities, I kept searching and staying productive. Now I have an opportunity to work for an amazing company and see where the career can take me. An interesting fact is that Graybar’s CEO started in customer service! I know I have a ton to learn and will never stop learning in an ever changing industry. I’m up for the challenge and excited to do my best and have no regrets. I want to tell you I applied for this job on April 8th, and will start June 29th. BE PATIENT.
Lesson’s learned during my 101 day journey
· Study yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses. Know what you’re capable of!
· Do your best to control that “inner voice”, be positive.
· Create structure in your life. Make a schedule, wake up early and follow it.
· Network, network, network. It is the #1 way to get a job, period.
· Review and restructure your resume to make you the best candidate out there.
· Be resilient. You will not be given an offer from every company, come back strong, move forward.
· Dress sharp, feel sharp and be sharp. Take care of yourself and dress for the occasion.
· If you are honestly doing your best, you should have nothing to regret.
· Have a support source. Family, friends or fellow job hunter groups.
· If you’re going to do all the work to get an interview, prepare for it and dress sharp!
· Remember that the speed of the interview process and whether you are receiving a regular paycheck is not a prospective employer’s concern.
· I wouldn’t recommend you ever quit a job without another job, if you do save AT LEAST 4 months funds. I read about multiple people that took over one year to land a job!
· There is a purpose for your life. You have the ability to influence people, make changes and succeed by making productive decisions starting today.
· When in a dark place in your life and feeling uncertain about who you are. This will show you how strong you are and who will love you unconditionally.
· Be Patient! The hiring process is a lengthy one, keep pushing.
· Find balance. If you job hunt all day, try to go running or do another unrelated activity afterwards.
· Surround yourself with positive people, positive books and positive self-talk.
· People are hired and fired daily, there are always positions opening for some reason.
· Never make the mistake that you think you know everything. Listen to people and always keep learning.
· Pray and or meditate. Find peace in this process, chaos will not solve many problems.
The last thing I want to say is that most people don’t have their life figured out, that’s okay. I don’t have my life figured out, that’s okay. General Ulysses S. Grant was a superstar in the 1800’s, he met royalty all over the world after the Civil War. Did you know that he chose to leave the army before the war started? Did you know that he failed almost every effort to make money? Many called him an alcoholic and a failure. He was given land to make money, failed. He tried farming in California, it was in a flood plain; failed. He had to move back home with his wife and kids, to work under his father and brothers. When the war started he was not even in the military! He eventually got back into his niche and was one of the most successful generals in the history books. That is one story of thousands. Its seems the common link is these people just keep trying! Wherever you are in your life, its okay! Think about what you want and where you want to go. Start making changes, take action and set small goals. We have the ability to live safe lives and be under the radar our entire life; we also have the ability to create changes which can produce situations we never dreamed of. There is nothing wrong with either decision, which will you choose? Life is very short, how will you choose to live it? I’ll tell you how I plan on living mine, without regrets. I want to push more, try more, love more and be more. I could be in the same position I was in 2003, but what fun would that be? Continue to become the best version of yourself. I wish you the best in your endeavors and hope you live life to the fullest. Carpe Diem!