Category Archives: Stuff

The most interesting thing about you — tl;dr

“I chase stray turkeys, catch them and bring them back to their pens,” he answered in the most matter-of-fact way to one of my interview questions. I hired him immediately to assemble and repair bikes, a job he then held for four years, even through the winter. I figured anyone willing to chase down turkeys was willing to learn to do pretty much anything else.

Years later, when I was looking for an artist with some practical skills, I interviewed a young, freshly-minted BFA and asked him what the most interesting thing about him was.

“I worked on a pig farm for six months.”

I hired him on the spot.

Every December, I get the dreaded email from accounting reminding me that the end of the year is coming up, books will be closing, taxes will look like this, etc. Every year, I get that longing to make all of this someone else’s problem by just getting a job.

This year, the PPACA made December worse as I agonized over the health care plan choices, the tax advantages over doing this one versus that, comparing the seemingly endless choices of Gold, Silver…blah, blah, blah.

“If I got a job, all these worries would go away,” I tell myself.

I pull up my usual job-seeking tools; Indeed, LinkedIn, twitter, my résumé… I sigh deeply as I realize that there are many more choices, checkboxes, switches and levers as choosing a healthcare plan. I’m a very talented, smart — dare I say funny — guy with a lot of skills, experiences and a deep body of work. Why are companies not lining up, calling ME? Why do I have to go begging them to interview me, much less hire me?

I start with my résumé. Since I haven’t updated it since last year, I add a few things, edit this line and that so it looks like every other résumé an HR person will see for every other job listing. It is organized into skills, accomplishments, job history, education and awards. It has all the keywords that will be scanned into the ATS (Applicant Tracking System.) I know all this stuff as I used to work in Human Resources.

I know the problem; I look like everyone else. I don’t jump out in any way. But I also know that any wacky way to set myself apart from the pack on my résumé will be met with distain or indifference by the HR department. They don’t like “different” as it indicates an employee who would be hard to manage (guilty!)

I also know my résumé will most likely be scanned into an ATS which ignores formatting and reduces me to a bucket of matchable keywords. I still gotta try.

Since I’m not unemployed and don’t have to land a job (all serious offers will still be considered, though) I have very little to lose by trying some unconventional stuff. I’m experimenting with a tl;dr line at the end of my résumé that sums up the most interesting thing about me.

No replies have yet come back with a burning desire to give me scads of money to do little to nothing every day. A few colleagues have suggested — after taking a long pause — I perhaps work my network a little more and my résumé less.

So far, I have responded to twenty-two job listings, all with my tl;dr résumé and a custom cover letter as they requested. Nineteen days into the new year, I have gotten no replies. I’m still hoping.

We’ll see.

*tl;dr = Too Long; Didn’t Read

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You may like the way you look because you may not know any better

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I remember when my dad taught me how to block a hat; to get that top crease just right. I also remember how he taught me to tie a necktie, to know which side I “dress” in a suit, where the leg breaks and to always make sure the holding stitch in the back flap of a suit coat was removed before wearing it. Today — because of him — I am as comfortable in a suit as I am in a pair of faded jeans and well-worn t-shirt.

I’ve passed these same skills on to my son. At twenty-seven, he still seeks fashion advice from me from time to time, though I suspect he does some fact-checking with his younger sister.
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One degree to the moon

I realize that what is really, really basic stuff to you, me and her is actually quite a complex set of skills as she struggled to explain it all in one video, probably realizing halfway through she had bitten into a cow instead of a burger.

My take-away from that is what many clients see from the outside is actually quite a valuable and complex skill set. As graphic designers, we need to be able to find some way of exhibiting value for that knowledge and skill. Experience actually saves a ton of money as the best designers will work from the press backwards to the desktop. The best ones make it look easy which sometimes works to erode value… and fees 🙂

One degree to the moon….

Trade associations are in big trouble

In a world of Web 2.0 communities where anyone can reach out and interact with anyone else, why would you seek out membership in a trade association?

Up until last year, my company was a member of 12 trade associations from coffee to soccer to event planning to wedding planners. I have since cancelled all my memberships except one and my business has not shrunk one bit. I have not ceased to know about the industries I am in and I spend more time networking using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and our blogs more than I ever did as a member of the trade associations.

In truth, I can’t point to one piece of business I secured as a result of being a member of a trade association nor any network contact that I did not actively seek out myself. Nor can I recall any piece of industry knowledge and research that I couldn’t find on Google.

But, I can tell you I have more money in the bank now that I am not paying association dues and advertising in the trade press at “reduced rates.” I am not going to trade association conferences as an exhibitor any more, but I still attend trade shows and conferences, either by buying a day pass, getting media credentials or volunteering to lead a workshop.

The railroad companies should own the airlines, but they don’t. Why? Because they thought they were in the railroad industry, not in the people and stuff transporting industry. Trade associations are acting the same way. For the most part, they are not using Web 2.0 tools because they believe they are in the “people networking” and conference industry, not in the tech world. They are confusing the tools with the industry they are in.

Trade associations are in the networking industry. Words like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Delicious, Digg, Alltop and blogs should roll off their tongues as easily as networking and sponsorship. But they don’t

Through their short-sightedness, trade associations have allowed an entire industry of “social networking experts” to crop up, leaving them wondering, “Why do we need trade shows? Why do we need a networking middle-man?”

Young college graduates have always been on Facebook, MySpace and now are joining LinkedIn as they think more about their careers than their social lives. They are reaching as to professionals on LinkedIn for mentorship and each other for career advice through sites like BranzenCareerist.com, bypassing the traditional trade groups such as SHRM, and AMA

For trade associations to survive and grow, they need to be the glue that connects people together. They need to be able to provide an answer to the question, “What does my trade association provide that I can’t find using Google?” And they need to do it quicker than I can type 140 characters into my Twitter.

Trade associations need to embrace and push tools like RSS, blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace. They need to push out content that is authoritative and readily available. They need to be there to recruit young college graduates where they communicate; on Facebook and blogs.

Without Web 2.0 tools, trade associations have no voice on the Internet, even if they have Web sites. Without a voice on the Internet, you are essentially silenced.

Journalism 2.0

Like most of America yesterday, I was glued to my television, eagerly awaiting the ruling from the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While I had some personal interest in the outcome, discussing the pros and cons of the Act and ruling is best left to other venues. For our purpose here, I am more interested in the process of how the news was revealed and the business/trade groups’ reaction to it.

Later that afternoon, I saw the Cleveland Clinic tweet fly by in my steam. I was curious about what they had to say. Here is President and CEO, Delos M. Cosgrove, MD’s response, complete with video.

Notice the time slugs. The SCOTUS ruling was read at approximately 10:17am EDT. The page on the the clinic’s web site was slugged at 3:19pm EDT, a mere five hours later. If this were a news organization, that would be far from impressive but the Cleveland Clinic is a for-profit company whose primary business unit is in treating patients, not reporting news.

There is some B-roll on the video, but the reporting had a level of specificity to the ruling that tells me this was not pre-prepared. Cosgrove’s interview may have been pre-taped and there may have been two versions depending on the outcome, but for the most part, this appears to have been put together in real time.

As newspapers and television news departments shed reporters, this is where journalists are going — into private companies and trade groups. While Google and Twitter can report the news very quickly, it takes the skills of a quality journalist to analyze it and present it succinctly so that speaks directly to your customers or membership. They want to know what the news means for them. The message is even stronger when accompanied by the strong visual of a chief executive.

Not every news story will have the reach and gravity of a SCOTUS ruling on health care, but not every organization provides the goods and/or services your customers or members need either. Your customers or members can get their news from anywhere or they can get it from you, a trusted source who will work harder to let them know what it all means for them.

Your choice, but I’d look into hiring a journalist. While you still can.

Hourly rates

At some point in a conversation with a prospect client, the question gets asked;

“What is your hourly rate?”

“We don’t have an hourly rate. If you want to pay an hourly rate, you should think about hiring an employee.”

As you can imagine, this confuses a lot of people. Many of those confused people go away and hire some other consultant who will probably either get reamed by the client or end up reaming the client. Either way, it will probably not end up well as eventually one or the other party will feel like they are being taken advantage of.

At some point in the exchange of skills for money, we have been conditioned to think about the value of our time in hourly rates. Whoever thought of this measure was either a genius or a madman. When you think about it, the more time you spend doing something, the better you get at it so it takes you less time to do. When a client compares your hourly rate to someone else’s — who may not be as proficient — and awards the job based on lowest bid, they are inherently paying for lessor quality. Who spends time honing a craft just to get paid less today than they did yesterday for better work? Nobody I want working on our brands.

An hourly rate rewards the slow and unskilled. A project rate rewards those who are proficient and quick.

It’s your success that is ultimately at stake. You decide who you want to work with. We already know.

Defining cool

I was in New York for the 140conf on Wednesday this past week. It would also be the hottest day of the year at 80+ degrees already at 7:30 in the morning.

I agreed to meet up with a colleague at a bakery on the Upper East Side before heading to the last day of the conference. After riding the train up town and walking a few blocks in the heat, I met him outside of the bakery and we went inside. The host greeted us and asked us where we would like to sit.

“The coolest seat in the house,” my colleague said.

“You want to sit here,” the host said, pointing to a table next to the open window. “Everyone passing by will see you.”

My colleague wrinkled his forehead, trying to process why everyone seeing us would make that table the coolest place in the bakery. What did that have to do with getting us a nice air-conditioned seat? We quickly figured out that his definition of “cool” was the polar opposite of our definition of “cool.”

Apparently seeking personal comfort is the most uncool thing you can do in New York City on a hot day.

There be pilots everywhere

Last week, the New York Times ran a story about harbor pilots in San Francisco. As it turns out, there are only 57 such pilots qualified to do that job.

Until I read that article, I did not know they existed. Until just now — as you are reading this — you probably didn’t know either. Congratulations if you did.

San Francisco Bar Pilots have been guiding large vessels from the Pacific in and out of the harbors since the Gold Rush in the mid 1800s. They know every sandbar, shoal and current on any given day and season of each harbor. They are what large shipping vessel captains place their unquestioning trust in to get them safely from the open sea, into the harbor and back out to sea.

A pilot makes an average salary of $451,336. Some say they are doing it only for the money.

I think there is something greater here that drives someone to want to be a harbor pilot. Someone who is that motivated by money can probably make just as much or more working on Wall Street and not take on the liability and stress of guiding a multi-billion dollar vessel through such danger, working in an office exposed to crappy weather.

Every industry has its pilots. Seek them out. Trust them to pilot the waters you choose to navigate. And give them respect; they’re not doing it just for the money.

Here is your bag of parts, sir

At some point in time during the past couple of years, vendors quit selling “solutions” and are now selling bags of parts. They have an app to do this part and a web site to do this. Their Windows-PC software manages this part on your desktop, doesn’t do Macs, iPads or iPhones. And the e-commerce on your website? Well, they don’t know how to do that, but they are pretty sure it’s easy. After all, Amazon.com is doing it.

“Do you want to talk to our tech people?” the sales person asks.

And you talk to their tech people but the tech people only know how to screw in this part to that other part. They don’t know (or care) how the whole thing works. Their job is only to get you to understand how their parts works.

“We have an API. Would you like me to send you over a fifty-page DND?”

You hang up, frustrated that nobody quite knows how all the parts fit together so you can just get on with the business of managing your business.

Instagram is a perfect example of a “parts” company. They only do one thing well; enable you to take photos and share them with your friends. Remember the Milk is another “parts” company that does to do list well but does not integrate at all with your other solutions. Oh, sure they have an API, but unless you know how to hook that in this and that, you won’t use it. Survey Monkey does great surveys; Constant Contact sends out email and Aweber manages your subscription list but each requires a high level of cajoling, importing and exporting to kinda-sorta get close to what you want, but not really. In each case, you need to learn new tools to make it all work.

And then there is the job of integrating that data smartly into your back end business systems and front end web site. Most often, people just give up and learn to live with the duct tape

Few companies are selling “solutions” anymore. That is too hard. They are all now selling bags of parts and they expect you to put it all together.

Welcome to IKEA Nation.

It’s a good thing you have the Google and DIY genes.

Adapted from a version published on our soccer tournament brand blog, TourneyCentral.

Four skills every college graduate needs

I was shooting the breeze with a college professor friend of mine the other day because his son is getting married this coming June. We were musing over where the time goes and the topic turned to “kids today” as he was also trying to entice his nephew to an unpaid internship in his department. He is set to graduate after six years of pursuing a degree in journalism… no change that to communications… no, wait English.. oh, what I meant was education.

His mother — my friend’s sister — called him in a moment of panic, pleading with him to give her son an internship so he could build a reel or book of work. She does not want him sitting around the house, unemployed and unemployable for the summer and the following year. Worse, she does not want to foot the bill for grad school.

All of this led to a discussion about the core skills that every college graduate needs — regardless of the degree — but especially those with a Liberal Arts degree. They are; photography, videography, writing and social media.

The technical challenge of building web sites and containers to hold things has already been solved. Anyone can waltz into WordPress or Tumblr and set up an online presence in minutes without any coding skills whatsoever. You can set up a brand page on Facebook and Google+ without any design skills as the format is already handled. If there is anything more complicated, chances are you can buy a plugin to handle the task.

If you really wanted to branch out and customize your basic site, there are thousands of templates and skins to slap onto your site. While it may not make your site entirely unique, it comes close enough.

But what these sites need most is good content.

Photos. Videos. Blog posts. Social media engagement.

Learn these skills and you will never be unemployable.