A form of payment that goes beyond dollars

I drive transit buses for a living.  At the moment, my hourly wage isn’t all that much higher than what the push has been for a minimum wage across the country.

My job involves a bit more than being able to safely drive an oversized vehicle that can hold a bunch of people.  It involves multitasking and customer service in various forms.

I’ve dealt with people who are kind and people who are angry.  I’ve broken up fights.  I’ve dealt with drunks and druggies.

busI make it a point to greet every person who steps on to the “ship” that I captain, give them a smile, and thank them when they step off at their destination.  If I fall short in that, it isn’t by much.  I get a reward whenever someone waves and smiles and says “thanks” when they leave.  The majority of passengers do that.

There are some riders who don’t say a word or give any form of acknowledgement of my existence.  That can include people I’ve made a special effort to serve and to please.  When that happens, I speak very quietly for them, in a way no one else can hear.

Thank you so much!  You are the most amazing driver I’ve ever seen!  You are so good, I’m speechless!

I cannot thank you enough for the service you’ve provided for me!  It was so wonderful, I’m speechless!

Etc., so on and so forth.

But, then, there are times when I can get a reward that goes beyond any monetary value.  There are times when simple acts of appreciation can make my entire day, and make what can be a thankless job worthwhile.

I was driving what can be a busy east-west route last week and could see a bus stop coming up, with a white-haired, elderly lady pushing a walker toward the stop.  She was maybe 100 feet away from it on the sidewalk with her back toward the bus.  I couldn’t tell if she needed a ride or not, so I slowed down a touch.  As I approached her, she turned and looked over her left shoulder, waving a hand at me to let me know she needed on.

It’s hard to stop a 40-foot bus on a dime.  If I could have pulled to a stop right next to her, I would have.  But I managed to pull up to the stop, and I could see the woman running up as quickly as she could.

elderlyI lowered the front of the bus to make it easier for her to get on.  She lifted her walker on, stepped up, put some money in the fare box, and I was about to hand her a transfer when she gave me the best reward I’ve had in the time I’ve driven one of these big machines.  Without saying a word, she looked me in the eyes — it looked like she had a touch of tears forming — and she reached over to give me a hug.  She didn’t speak, but her gratitude was evident.

From that moment until she pulled the cord to let me know she needed off, I kept looking back in a mirror to see if she was okay.  She folded her arms once on the handles of the walker and laid her forehead on her arms, looking relieved.  I wondered if she could speak at all.

As she was leaving the bus, she patted me on my right arm, looked me in the eyes again, and gave me what appeared to be words of thanks in a form of sign language.

Those are the good moments that make customer service worthwhile.

With one eye on the jobs front, an appreciation for appreciation

I’m entering the fifth week of a new job, doing something that I was never previously trained to do in a formal manner, something for which I never earned a college degree nor a near-4.0 grade point average in college nor a dean’s list honor like I did in computer programming.

The Careers Day poster they rejected
The Careers Day poster they rejected (Photo credit: Alun Salt)

Computer programming was “starting over” career-wise for me way back then, about 19 1/2 years ago.  It was a college education which helped that “new starting point” to bear some decent fruit, financially speaking.  It was at a time when the “Year 2000” was looming, and mainframe programmers were a hot ticket.

It was a fresh, new starting point after 16 years as a newspaper journalist where I learned — mostly on the job and through hard knocks, through observing some of the real journalistic pros of the day and developing my own style through them — enough to work my way up from a sports stringer’s job to a reporter to a sports editor to a managing editor of a small daily paper.  I worked very hard, took pride in my craft, and advanced as far as I could at the time without the benefit of a college degree.  The pay wasn’t great, but I was doing something I enjoyed, something that was honest and that served in the public’s interest.

I worked hard in the newspaper business.  I worked hard as a computer programmer.  Except for the last five years of the latter career, I earned some praise for my work and I have the performance reviews to prove it.  Those last five years … well, let’s just say my performance didn’t slack off, and there are bosses in this world who could learn a few things about how to motivate their people without resorting to ridicule and intimidation.

So, now, here I am, only five weeks into yet another career change and the “rewards” are closer to where they were in the old days when everything cost less.  But even now, I’m still working hard, putting in my absolute best effort, trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can, taking some pride in what I do.

And it’s being recognized.

Here I am, only five weeks into a new career in customer service, and I’m already in line to possibly move up from an agent’s position to a trainer’s position, where I can put some previous training and coaching and motivational experience to good use.

That’s what can happen when you put in your best effort, and you’re working for and with people who recognize and appreciate it.

After five years spent mostly going without that recognition and appreciation, leading up to over one year of being unemployed, it feels good.

The non-motivational ones still have a thing or two to learn, I’d imagine.

I’m still keeping an eye on the jobs front, still watching what happens as our lawmakers squabble over the non-jobs business without really getting down to the heart of what could help turn this economy around — creating jobs; creating decent-paying jobs that keep people housed properly, fed properly, clothed properly, cared for properly.

I’ll still be keeping an eye on what comes out of the mouth of President Obama Tuesday night in his State of the Union speech when it comes to the jobs front, and an eye on any action or inaction that follows on the jobs front.

I’m still very much like a lot of people out there these days, just struggling to survive despite busting my butt, thinking it’d take a second full-time job to do it and not even being sure that’s a sure thing.

It gets tiresome.

A case of “PR deja vu” for Whole Foods’ John Mackey

Until now, we’ve been weekly customers at Whole Foods.  We don’t usually buy much there — just a few items from the bulk bins like spelt flour or nutritional yeast or a bit of candy for a treat, a bottle of lemon juice, occasionally picking up some vitamin supplements, maybe a healthier brand of hot dogs once in a while, a loaf or two of spelt bread in the past.

Before it became Whole Foods, we shopped at Wild Oats too.  Having Whole Foods buy out Wild Oats wasn’t something to keep us from patronizing the business.  What’s kept us from getting more groceries there has been the simple reason that Whole Foods’ prices on many items are so high.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It appears that may be a thing of the past for us now, and all because of two key words spoken by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey in an interview on National Public Radio this week as he gave his views on the Affordable Care Act, saying it’s “like fascism.”

So, here’s a law that was passed by both branches of Congress, signed by the President, upheld as being constitutional by the Supreme Court, considered by the most ardent liberals as not going far enough to solve the issue of high health care costs for the average American citizen (wanting a single payer system instead), and Whole Foods’ CEO deemed the ACA as being “like fascism.”

Mackey has joined the list of American business leaders who’ve gone out of their way in expressing their displeasure about “Obamacare,” and in many cases ended up backtracking just a tad when customers complained loudly.

When will these folks ever learn?  And how is it that folks like these end up running companies like these anyway?  You’d think once they’ve seen one fool mixing their business side with misstated, inflammatory political views and getting heat from a majority of customers because of it that they might learn a lesson.

If you want to see the kind of response Whole Foods has been getting after Mackey’s “fascism” comment, all you need to do is look at the company’s Facebook page and see the kinds of comments they’ve been getting even on items that have nothing to do with Mackey’s remark.

People are pissed off.

But John Mackey just doesn’t seem to get it.  Even his retraction today didn’t go all that far toward calming people down.

What’s funny is that this isn’t the first time Mackey has found himself in a bad view in the public relations spotlight.  The rest of that story goes back to the days when Whole Foods was looking at buying out Wild Oats — what used to be our favorite health food store before Mackey’s company made the move — and Mackey played a foolish online trolling game to make Wild Oats look bad.  A bit of stock price manipulation, perhaps?

NEW YORK TIMES:  How Whole Foods CEO Led 2 Lives

Aaaahhh, but that was just another case of “Conscious Capitalism,” wasn’t it?

Alexis Ohanian: Lester Chambers’ “time has come”

Lester Chambers was able to touch Alexis Ohanian‘s soul last March.  Now, they have formed a kind of partnership designed to prove some skeptics in the music industry wrong.

lester and alexis
Lester Chambers and Alexis Ohanian (Source: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1195088551/lesters-time-has-come-today)

They make up an intriguing pair.

Lester is 72 years old.  He and his siblings made up The Chambers Brothers, the popular rock/soul/psychedelic/gospel music group from the 1960s and ’70s that played at huge events with the likes of The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf and more, famous for songs like the anthemic “Time Has Come Today” and their cover of the classic “People Get Ready” with Lester handling lead vocals.  Once The Chambers Brothers faded from the global spotlight (but not without “Time Has Come Today” living on through multiple uses in film, television, and advertising) and once Lester began experiencing health problems, times became hard for him.  Lester is more “old school.”

Alexis is 29 years old.  He’s an internet entrepreneur, activist and inventor.  His claim to fame has come as being a co-founder of the San Francisco-based social news and entertainment website Reddit, which was acquired by Condé Nast Publications in October 2006 and for which Ohanian serves on its board of directors.  In 2007, Ohanian launched Breadpig, an “uncorporation” that produces merchandise and gives the proceeds to charity.  In 2010, Ohanian helped launch the travel search website Hipmunk, where he acts as an advisor.  As an activist, Ohanian spoke out in late 2010 and early 2011 against Congress’ Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA), helping to lead the internet grassroots campaign that eventually overturned the two bills.  Ohanian spoke to members of Congress, and helped launch the national anti-SOPA/PIPA protests that took place on January 18, 2012, which included a massive blackout of major websites such as Wikipedia, Google, and WordPress (which this blog participated in).

Alexis Ohanian is very “new school.”

In early March of this year, Lester, his wife Lola, and their son Dylan put together this sign, had Lester hold it in front of his face, took a photo of it, and shared it on social media.

lester sign

The photo turned viral.  Reddit helped it to become viral.  It got the attention of Alexis Ohanian.  It stayed in Ohanian’s mind.  And now, he and Lester Chambers have joined up to make a statement.

The activist sides of Lester Chambers and Alexis Ohanian have combined to make a statement when it comes to the music industry, and now they’re leaving it in the hands of the music listening public and Lester’s legions of fans to help right some wrongs and give something back for the joy that Lester and The Chambers Brothers have given to the world for many years.  But it goes beyond that.  In Lester’s case, it goes toward helping other musicians like Lester who have found themselves struggling.

Just don’t think of it as charity.  This is not a handout.  It’s not a form of begging.  In this age where people can download all kinds of entertainment for little or nothing, this is a way fans can purchase music that’s already been recorded and buy a stake in a future recording of Lester Chambers and his current band The Mud Stompers, a recording that’s also planned to feature the famous Tower of Power horns, Lenny Williams, Zakiya Hooker, Ant Dog, and the Marin City Choir.

On Tuesday of this week, Lester and Alexis launched a fundraising drive on the platform Kickstarter, hoping to raise at least $39,000 by January 9 to cover the cost of recording a brand new album of music performed by Lester and his friends.

Through Ohanian’s Breadpig site, part of the proceeds would go to Sweet Relief Musicians Fund — a non-profit charity that has helped Lester in many ways through his hard times.  Lester is wanting to “pay it forward” through the organization that’s helped him to survive, and Ohanian is providing him with that outlet.

More information on the recordings and merchandise available to those who make a pledge, a video, and links to make a pledge can be found at the link below:

Lester’s Time Has Come Today

A link to the event’s Facebook page can be found at the link below:

Lester Chambers’ Time Has Come on Facebook

A link to Lester Chambers and The Mud Stompers’ new and evolving website can be found at the link below:

Lester Chambers and The Mud Stompers:  Welcome to Our House

Think of it as “old school” and “new school” combined, kind of like the new-found friendship between Lester and Alexis.  It’s more like how it used to be when you’d go to a record store and plop down money for an album or other merchandise, only this way the “store” is right at your fingertips on the worldwide web, and this would make anyone making a pledge an “investor” in something that can give them endless entertainment.

As Alexis Ohanian says toward the end of this video, it gives people a chance to “do it all like you give a damn.”

A look at a (former) CEO who “gets it”

I’ve spent a fair amount of time and space here talking about corporate CEOs who make some rather head-scratching and selfish moves and come away looking like villains.  A case in point would be a story that came out today about executives at Hostess apparently getting bonuses adding up to $1.8 million on top of their salaries while their company goes into liquidation, all with thousands of Hostess workers going without a job.

English: Hostess Twinkies. Yellow snack cake w...
English: Hostess Twinkies. Yellow snack cake with cream filling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But it’s the workers getting the blame for Hostess going out of business, when if you dig deeper into the facts it looks more like a case of Hostess going out of business because of shoddy, greedy leadership.

Those are the kinds of executives who give the good execs a bad name.  But there are good execs out there, ones who realize there’s a correlation between treating customers right while recognizing that treating their employees right is just as important, if not more so.

They’re the kinds of executives who realize that the best employees are happy employees, and happy employees turn into great ambassadors for the business.

One example of a CEO who fits that mold has been getting quite a bit of attention on the worldwide web lately through a picture that talks about his business practices.  The sad part is that this CEO is actually no longer a CEO, due to the glory of retirement.  It’s sad because we need more CEOs like him.

English: Costco in Moncton, New Brunswick
English: Costco in Moncton, New Brunswick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m talking about Jim Sinegal, who helped found Costco and built the warehouse store into one of the top businesses in America.

To loyal Costco customers and employees, Sinegal is the equivalent of a rock star.  To all too many people on Wall Street, he’s considered a bad guy.

There’s something very wrong with that picture.

Screw Wal-Mart, support your neighborhood stores!

I drove around no more than a few miles from where I live on this Black Friday morning, curious to see if there was any sign of Wal-Mart workers protesting wages, benefits, or the retaliation that comes from management whenever any discussion of better working conditions is mentioned.

Along the way, I went through two Wal-Mart parking lots and one Sam’s Club lot.  I didn’t care to set foot inside, but it’s not like I would have seen anything but packed stores anyway.  Sadly, the only signs I saw outside along the public sidewalks nearby were a couple held up by homeless people.

It’s a growing sign of the times.  And it’s not as though companies like Wal-Mart are going to provide any solutions to that soon.  They do, after all, hold the upper hand in the nasty business of controlling with an iron fist things like employee wages, benefits (or lack thereof), work hours, and where their own employees are able to spend the little money their own associates earn.

If their associates don’t like it, management will just find someone else who’ll put up with it to take those associates’ places.  If we don’t see huge displays of protesters outside Wal-Mart stores, maybe that’s why.

My favorite locally owned neighborhood grocery store, where the people who work there are more like friends. (Photo By John G. Miler)

From those Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club parking lots, I happily drove to my favorite grocery store.  It’s a chain store too, but it’s locally owned.  Seeing as how I’m the one out of our family who does most of our grocery shopping, I’ve become a familiar face in our nearby store, and it’s not a rare thing to walk the aisles and see one of the owners there.  Customers know what the owners look like, because they’ve seen their faces in local ads and on their grocery bags.  Customers can talk to the owners face to face and engage in friendly conversations.  The employees treat the owners just like customers, and I can say that because I’ve had one of the owners checking out next to me.

We’re talking about a store where many of the employees have been there for years, and if you’re a regular customer you even see some familiar faces among the customers.  It’s a store where the employees actually recognize you as a regular customer.  One of them has a name for me:  “Kenny Rogers,” because of my resemblance to the country music singer, and any time she sees me she strikes up a conversation.  If my wife and daughter are in the store with me, she’ll strike up a conversation with them as well.

It’s like a friendship.  That’s not a bad way to do business.

That locally owned neighborhood grocery store isn’t all that far down the street from a Wal-Mart superstore, and the locally owned store shows no signs of having lost much business to the behemoth.  Personally, I try to avoid Wal-Mart like the plague because I hate what their business model has become.  I’d be lying if I said I never shop there.  I’ve seen one employee of the locally owned store who came to know me by my name go to work at the new Wal-Mart superstore, and she seemed happy at the start.  I know because I struck up a conversation with her.  Soon after, I never saw her there again.  Regular faces among Wal-Mart associates doesn’t seem to be a very common thing.

Back when I had a decent full-time job, I did almost all of my shopping at the locally owned store.  Sadly, now that I’ve had to watch our money more without a decent full-time job, I shop more at the nearest Wal-Mart.  I know what it’s like to have to live on a super-tight budget, and I can’t blame those who shop there because of that same reason.  But I long for the day when a decent full-time job comes our way again, and my days of being a more regular Wal-Mart shopper can end.

I do still shop as regularly as possible at the locally owned store, because I know there are some items there that Wal-Mart either doesn’t have or they cost just as much if not less than the giant.  Besides, there is absolutely, positively no way I am ever going to buy meat at Wal-Mart.  If I’m going to eat meat, I’d like to know it came from a healthy bovine or bird, and my locally owned store gives me that satisfaction.

My big dislike for Wal-Mart goes back to a wide variety of reasons, but the biggest ones have to do with the very reasons there’s even been talk of employees — err, associates — walking out during the big Black Friday rush:  people working hard for and showing loyalty to a company that they believe in and get excited about in the beginning, believing that loyalty is going to be returned by the employer, and finding something else to be true in all too many cases … right down to having a multibillion-dollar company telling its people they’ll have to rely on the state to take care of their health care needs, or that they’ll need to go to the state for assistance in putting food on their table, because the multibillion-dollar company refuses to do so through a livable wage.

That’s the kind of thing about Wal-Mart that makes me sad to say that I even set foot in the place.

But I do refuse to set foot in a Wal-Mart on this Black Friday.  The reasons why are pretty much summed up in this 97-minute documentary below.

How many more Robert E. Murrays are out there?

I need to say this up front.  The article you’re reading now was written by someone who is a miner’s kid, someone who lost his father in a mining accident before I was born.  My father was a miner’s kid from Kentucky, and he never really knew his parents either because they both died when my dad was very young.

The only thing I really know about my grandparents on my father’s side is something that an aunt said on a cassette tape that was recorded and sent to me by a cousin years ago before my aunt, my father’s only sibling, passed away — they were both very sick before they died.  It wouldn’t surprise me if my grandfather Miller had black lung disease from working in the mines.

Robert E. Murray

That’s the end of my “disclosure statement.”  Now, allow me to talk a bit about Robert E. Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, an Ohio-based coal company, the largest privately owned coal company in the U.S. with subsidiaries spread across the country — including Utah.

Murray is accustomed to being in the news, and he jumped back into the spotlight last week, the day after the presidential election, when he followed through on a threat to let employees go if President Obama were re-elected.  He even saw fit to say a lengthy prayer asking for forgiveness just before laying off 54 people at his subsidiary American Coal, with another 102 let go at Utah American Energy.  He blamed a “war on coal” by Obama, although if you ask many energy analysts they’ll say that the coal-mining business is suffering because of competition from low-cost natural gas and rising production costs of coal.

WASHINGTON POST:  After Obama reelection, Murray Energy CEO reads prayer, announces layoffs

The political sour grapes are hitting the fan, and it’s not helping the image of companies like Murray’s or Papa John’s Pizza — where founder and CEO John Schnatter said the cost to his business of the Affordable Care Act would likely result in the cost of a pizza to the customers going up 14 cents, and/or reducing work hours for employees.

The word “boycott” is being seen a lot more lately on the web now when it comes to any mention in comments about Papa John’s.

So, just how many more Robert E. Murrays are out there?  How many more people are or will be losing their jobs or seeing their hours cut because there just aren’t quite enough millions being made?

Murray’s story is particularly sickening.  The next time you see him whining on the television with some bogus story about the president’s re-election literally costing people their jobs, please take the words coming out of his mouth with a grain of salt.

This is, after all, the man whose face was plastered all over TV screens around the nation and the world when unsafe mining techniques — known as “retreat mining” when columns of earth are left to hold up a mountain — were practiced at Utah’s Crandall Canyon Mine, resulting in a collapse in August of 2007 that registered 3.9 on the Richter scale and claimed the lives of six miners and three rescue workers in the days that followed.

The Crandall Canyon Mine collapsed after numerous safety violations were found.  The men who were killed and their families paid a heavy price, due in large part to safety regulations not being followed — all to make bigger bucks.

Robert Murray was front and center through it all, defending himself and his company, blaming the collapse on an earthquake (when the earthquake was actually the mountain collapsing), boasting about all the things he was doing personally to pull the miners out of the hole that came down on them to any camera that happened to be recording at the time, and coming across more like a clown in the process.

I remember it all very well, because I was seeing his mug on the national and local news on a daily basis, and I was seeing his bombastic temper.

It’s the same temper that he’s been showing before and after the 2012 election.  But don’t take my word for it.  See him for yourself, and while you’re at it travel back in time to see and hear the emotions coming from the families of the men who were killed at the Crandall Canyon Mine as they gave sworn testimony in front of Congress back in 2007.

I feel for them.  I feel sorry for Robert E. Murray, and every other joker out there like him.  How many jobs could he have personally saved if he’d seen fit to pump a bit less money into a failed political campaign?

The new age of job discrimination?

Am I now screwed?

I’ll be very honest here:  car sales so far has not been the answer to pulling out of the effects of being unemployed for almost a year.  If you’re on a base, hourly wage plus commission basis, as I’ve been … well, let’s just say that at some auto dealerships, even when you sell a brand new $28,000 vehicle with less than 10 miles on the odometer (like I did the very first day that I was “set loose” to try and sell), the gross because of the low markup can be so low that it’s shocking, and the sales rep can get the short end of the stick.

So, I’m still searching nationwide for a computer programming job that more closely fits my training and experience, one that could go much farther toward helping us get back on our feet.

Employment Exhibition
Employment Exhibition (Photo credit: Modern_Language_Center)

With that in mind, I can tell you that I went through a targeted, nationwide job search today that included going through a major national technical recruiting firm.  I found a job in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that was a damn near perfect fit for my skills.  Most times, these online job searches result in little more than submitting an online application and hoping that a tech recruiter responds.  That happened with me just yesterday on another job in North Carolina, getting a response about two hours after I applied online.

The job in Cedar Rapids was different.  It actually gave a phone number and a name to contact the tech recruiter, and I gave him a call to see if the job was still open.

Strike one against me was the fact that I live quite a distance away from Iowa, and the company looking for a programmer/analyst is looking for local people.

Strike two was a bit of a shocker to me.  The question was asked if I was currently employed as a programmer.  I had to answer that I was not.

The recruiter then informed me that the employer was specifically NOT looking at anyone who is not currently working in the field.  Only programmers currently working as programmers need apply.

The recruiter continued:  “The employer wants people whose skills are sharp.”  Now, unless I’m mistaken, there haven’t been huge changes in the past year when it comes to writing mainframe computer code, and there’s really only one way to spell “JCL” — that’s some mainframe programmer’s humor.

He also went on to say that the employer for this particular job was in no hurry to fill the open position, and they were just waiting for the right currently employed person before hiring.

It felt like I’d just been kicked in a very bad place.

Is this a new thing?  No, it’s been going on longer than I’ve been unemployed.  Even in the time I’d be making the hour-long commute to my last programming job, I’d started hearing about the long-term unemployed being denied so much as a small chance at finding jobs by some employers who’d go so far as to blatantly advertise “unemployed people need not apply” in job listings.

Is it fair?  Many people would answer “No.”  Is it legal?  At this point, yeah, it is.

It sucks.  And I’m feeling screwed.

It’s all about “selling yourself”

I slept for less than an hour last night … less than one hour, total.

Car dealership in Rockville, Maryland (Courtes...
Car dealership in Rockville, Maryland (Courtesy Jeep, now Darcars Chrysler/Jeep) located at: 755 Rockville Pike. Rockville, Maryland 20852. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been going through online training exercises on my own since I started a new car sales job Monday morning, and yesterday morning I went through an exercise that talked about using social media and it asked a question about how effective our dealership’s more modern marketing methods are.  I did some checking around, and actually found that our dealership could do more to bring in customers through social media.
For some reason, as soon as my head hit the pillow last night, ideas started racing through my brain on how to take that kind of marketing-oriented step.  It felt solid to me, almost “inspired.”  The more I laid in bed, the more ideas came to me.  It was maddening.

After just three days of absolute beginner’s training on selling a line of cars, I was mentally preparing to present these ideas to one of our sales managers.  After over 10 months of being out of work, I suddenly found myself ready to pitch some big ideas.

This morning came, the sales manager came out to chat with the sales staff who were there, and a perfect opportunity came along to pitch the thoughts I’d laid awake stewing over hours before.  After some excited discussion back and forth between three people in particular — including me — the sales manager was convinced.  He presented it to the general manager, who was partially convinced.  The part he was most convinced about had to do with me, and the things that I could do to help draw in customers to the dealership who’ve already gone through some thorough online research.

I suddenly became a key player in a crucial marketing campaign after being “down” for over 10 months, and it was all so sudden.  It felt great.  I felt important again.  For the first time in years, I felt like my input made a big difference in a business decision.

It’s only been a matter of weeks since someone who was concerned about my job prospects advised me by saying “sell yourself.”  I feel like I’ve been doing that like a madman ever since.

The same “presence” that told me nearly a year ago to start a personal blog in order to share our struggles to keep our family going through its greatest challenge ever seemed to plant itself in my mind and heart again last night, pushing me to take a chance on pushing ideas that could turn into something successful, pushing me to “sell myself” and something I’ve come to believe in, perhaps getting us on a faster track to resuming our family’s preferred method of spiritual worship.

I followed through.  The timing seemed perfect.  The sales manager’s response was all I’d dreamed it would be.

I’m willing to “sell myself” in certain ways.  I’m not willing to “sell my soul.”  Maybe sometimes if we want to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps after getting to a point as low as we’ve ever seen, it takes some “mysterious ways.”

I’ll explain it in better detail in a couple of days.  I do need some sleep.  Perhaps this is where the healing begins.

Good news on the tech job front — in India

I found a relative gold mine a while back in my job searching when I came across the web site dice.com and found a whole bunch of listings for computer programmers with the language I have the most experience with, that fossil known as COBOL.

Ever since then, dice.com has been a regular stop for me in my job searching.  I’ve put out so many applications through there, for jobs around the country, the ones that I’ve applied for have been cycling through again to let me know I’ve already got an application out there for them so I don’t double up on the same jobs.

I’ve also been getting email alerts and stories on IT job trends from dice.com to help keep me aware of what’s going on out there.  There was one story that came through a couple of days ago that was about as encouraging as a swift kick in the teeth.

The headline read, “Hewlett-Packard Won’t Cut Any Jobs in India.”

It appears HP is going through some “restructuring,” a convenient term for layoffs and job shifts.  HP announced in May that it will cut 27,000 positions over the next two years, including 9,000 in the United States.

Meg Whitman speaks at the Tech Museum in San J...
Meg Whitman speaks at the Tech Museum in San Jose, CA February 17, 2009. Photo by Max Morse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman — a former Republican candidate for governor in California — sought to reassure HP employees in India, however, that their jobs would largely be safe.

“We are not reducing our workforce in India,” Whitman told Economic Times.  “We have announced a global work force reduction, but India will stay largely intact, because we not only have all our business units here, but also our R&D and back office. We are focused on keeping our work force here, and I think over time, probably increase the work force.”

I won’t slam workers in India.  I’ve worked with IT people in India before, they’re hard workers and pleasant to work with.  I’ve been entertained once through listening to the different dialects in a conference call between workers in India and China on the same call.

But, in the meantime, my nationwide efforts in finding a tech job for positions in which I’m qualified are getting me not so much as a sniff.  It’s … frustrating.

Is it time to move to India?