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Unseen Ramblings

Four. One hundred jobs and counting.

For those now keeping track, as you can see, I have been away from blogging for several months and did not keep to the daily schedule I had tried to force myself into.  I had more important things to do than write down my thoughts for public consumption.  Pity that others have so much free time.

I am back, today at least, to expand on my resume.  Job hunting perplexes me as much as social media does.  I read an article in Fortune magazine which stated that baby boomers born from 1957-1964, like me, worked an average of 11 (eleven) jobs from the ages of 18-44, and that those who are entering the workforce now will likely work 20-25 jobs in their early adult lifetime.  This floored me.  I had 11 jobs before I was 19 years old and now at the age of 47 have held well over 100.

Why so many jobs?

Each one is its own story.  If I found something that paid better or I decided to leave for a change of scenery in another town I moved on.  Many times I was laid off or fired.  Most of my jobs were in sales.  I have sold a variety of services and products over the years from daily newspapers to cemetery property, cars, advertising, pots and pans and everything in between.  But never insurance.  That just did not happen.  Maybe I am blessed for it.  I don’t know.  There seems to be a consensus that of all salespeople insurance hawkers are those despised most.

It is only recently that I get  the feeling that having so much experience is a detriment.  In my job search I have read recent articles on reinventing one self and transforming a resume into a skillfully crafted letter of autobiography that can’t be put down and screams “Hire me.”  I reinvented myself every time I was out of work, almost always taking the first job that came along because I could not bear the idea of being unemployed.  I never had a problem collecting unemployment, that did not bother me, it was mine to be had, rightfully so, every time I collected, but I always worked on something to get beyond the dole.  Many times it was a part time job and I could still collect partial benefits and other times I developed what I thought would be a lucrative business with my creative skills and my unique and savvy viewpoint on what should work.

For the most part, I know that my stagnation in the businesses I developed were the result of believing that many other people thought the way I did and would like the same things as me.  When I developed programs that made sense to me and gave people options and three things to do at once they would choose the one that was right for them.  But I was wrong.  Complexity is a hard sell.  Two choices at once are too many and three just puts customers off.  Many customers are incapable of making their own decisions and need true guidance.  They don’t want to feel that by choosing A, they are missing B and left wondering if they made the right choice.  So at next years film festival, there will only be one screen at a time, not two or three.  When it comes to offering choice by genre, even that becomes confusing for some.

Live and learn.  Do it better next time.

I have always liked variety and especially a choice of two or more unknowns.  From 1982 – 1985 I hitchhiked over 30,000 miles around the US and Canada.  The unknown of who would give me a ride and where I would end up was the most intriguing thing about it.  That is what made it fun.  I never had fun on a bus, knowing when it would get where it was going and being forced to maintain a schedule. Then, just when you want to be on schedule, I took a ride on a bus from Billings to Livingston MT.  I had left my car in Livingston when I moved between the towns and found this to be the easiest solution for retrieval.  Wouldn’t you know it – the bus made a mandatory stop in Big Timber, 30 miles from Livingston and left somebody behind.  Even I noticed the guy was missing since we only had 8 people on the bus.  I figured that must have been his destination.  But no.  The driver got a call to turn around and go get him and we could not do so for 15 miles, so we spent nearly an extra hour on the bus turning around to pick the guy up because the driver didn’t do a head count.  But I digress.  Today I want to focus on my work history.

My true resume does not scream hire me.  In fact it conjures more questions than answers.  It does not relate what I consider diversity.  Instead, it conveys a history of disconnections without any clear career path.  It makes sense to me because I know what happened.  But even in interviews (live and learn) when prospective employers found me to have two or three jobs in the same year they thought I had mistakes and typographical errors on my resume that would translate to future mistakes and errors in their workplace and leave them with a mess to clean up, especially if I could not dedicate myself to one job.

They can’t handle the truth at job interviews.  When asked how long I intended to work here I would reply something to the effect of “As long as it is profitable.”  Once I found myself not getting jobs when I answered truthfully I learned to lie and tell them what they want to hear.  No matter who the employer is they basically want to hear “Forever.”  Being honest up front is no way to do business.  It is unexpected and refreshing and the last thing a hiring manager wants to deal with is somebody who thinks freely and has ideas that may need to be implemented.  If people like this (me) are brought on board their little worlds would rock and their carefully positioned way of doing things would crumble.

This is where corporate America caught on.  They could get everything they needed by hiring temporary workers and subcontractors without any power or influence, maintain control of their personal terrariums and not pay for any long term benefits like subsidized insurance plans or matching funds for 401Ks.  It was brilliant.  Anyone with the funds may now set up a company, hire salespeople to work on straight commission and train themselves at home with their own computers, cell phones and vehicles and supplement those commissioned (if necessary) with temporary workers hired through a service for an hourly wage (also to work at home on their computers) and create a viable business with a sales force and customer service department with no vested interest in the company so that it may dissolve instantly if it doesn’t work out and the creator doesn’t even have a stake in a rental property.

This business model is alive and well now.  Brands are being created in home offices and administered through go-betweens on commission because customers don’t need to leave their homes either.  This is why what were once thriving downtown areas with rows of brick and mortar businesses have developed into dilapidated empty streets.  People like sitting at home on their computers and pushing buttons.  Why go out for coffee when you can have beans, a grinder and your own espresso machine delivered along with crystal clear spring water, all left on your doorstep so you don’t have to confront the delivery person?

May sound extreme but it is realistic.  How else could the economy boom with record sales this Christmas while the country is simultaneously experiencing record unemployment?  How could that be?  Because the unemployment numbers are wrong.  People are working from home and these jobs are not being recorded.  It is easier now than ever before to set up a business at home and have funds sent directly to your bank account without a literal paper trail for the IRS.  If you don’t report a business, you don’t have one.  But you can still have a Paypal account, direct deposits to offshore banks, purchase and sell whatever you like and have somebody else pay for your overhead if they get a small hourly wage or commission.

The reason retailers announced sales of 50 – 70% off the day before Christmas was because they had to.  They are in strict competition with online sellers whose profit margin may be as low as less than 1%, who make their profit on volume alone because they don’t have the overhead of retail establishments with addresses you can find.  As a result, customers themselves become the company administrative staff, pumping in personal information that will definitely be correct because these same customers have a vested interest in receiving what they have paid for.

I am not talking about mega-site retailers like Amazon.com here.  I am pointing out that there are hundreds of individuals selling perfectly good stuff on Ebay and Craigslist and through other little retail sites where people who won’t leave home will take the time to shop.  Ironically, these are likely to be the same people who are doing the selling of most online goods and services.  They have learned how to negotiate the internet, cut out the middleman and take home a great deal by placing their trust in somebody they will never look in the eye and hand over their cash to.  It’s just a bunch of numbers and the push of a button and they are done.  Instant gratification.  Like a slot machine that gives you whatever you want whenever you want it.

What this reveals is a subculture that, while allowing global reach and freedom of choice, undermines the economy of retail business and forces larger companies into outsourcing and less security for their employees because it has become the only way they may compete.

My job now is working for the third largest cemetery property holder in the US.  Hiring me as a strictly commissioned sales person was the only way they could compete, given the overhead associated with grounds maintenance and supporting the integrity of established laws concerning this industry.  Lucky for us people can not be buried just anywhere, like a junk car that can sit on unused land for decades.

Most other businesses are not as recession-proof as death, but even here, a base salary for what I do (I am told) is not possible if only for one simple reason.  There are way more sales people looking for work than there are sales jobs.

Which brings me back to my original dilemma.  Given my wide array of work experience in a multitude of industries and no particular skill sets other than sales and customer service I find myself grasping for whatever it is that sets me apart from my competition.  One of the best things I can say about myself is that I will try just about anything.  But again, this is not what a prospective employer wants to hear.  They want to hear the lie.  They want to hear that I have a huge scroll of contacts I can reach out and sell their product to so they don’t have to provide leads.  They want to hear that I maintained the top sales position in my office in a relevant industry and am still at the top of my game and the company that is about to lose me is a great place to work, yet very unfortunate to be losing me.

They say the Yellow Pages died.  The internet killed it and customers caught on.  When was the last time you, dear reader, picked up a physical, paper phone book and looked inside for local information?  This year?  Last year?  Five years?  More appropriately, they have not yet died but are reinventing themselves as an industry on life support, fighting for a piece of the internet, TV and direct mail markets.  I spent nine years boasting the glory of yellow pages.  While our dinosaur mired in uselessness, we account executives found ourselves selling something that nobody wanted and were soon cut off like ailing limbs.  When customers were given the choice of buying advertising from a computer or dealing with live human beings, self-service soon outpaced customer service and the obsolescence of humanity ensued.

Perhaps my gripe is not with the world but with myself.  Maybe I should have foreseen that people would stop using phone books years before my customers stopped renewing their ads.  Whatever crystal ball I should have looked into I missed completely.  Maybe it is the social media circus that I never fully embraced.  Whatever the case, I am still, even by way of this blog, reinventing myself once more.

I have been a salesman for the better part of 35 years and now I am told that saying this on a resume is also taboo.  35 years experience equates to used and ready for retirement.  Forget that I starting working when I was 12.  Nobody wants to count that.  I do.  They were real jobs.  Newspaper delivery, five years.  Corner store stock boy, two years.  Mowed some lawns and shoveled some sidewalks and driveways.  Plus I learned a trade in high school.  My school was renown in our region (so the faculty claimed) as the place to learn how to cook and a precursor to chef school.  I did indeed learn how to cook, how to bake, to saute, grill and sous.  I also learned to butcher meat, serve a formal meal and wash dishes so that they came out clean.  This helped place me in the employ of several restaurants and kitchens with part-time after school and weekend work with skills I still maintain today and can teach anyone (who is willing to learn) how to do them.  With all this and a couple of telemarketing positions I can honestly count 8 real jobs where FICA pulled withholding tax from my checks before I turned 18.

Yet of all these basic tasks, restaurants will not hire me, nor will retail stores, because my professional resume does not reflect such recent experience and by virtue of my maturity I am not considered for what are considered trainee or entry level positions.  I could probably deliver newspapers again, however I am not applying for those positions, nor telemarketing, because it is my opinion that the world can do without newspapers and unsolicited phone calls.  There are very few other things I would not care to do, but there are plenty of others willing to do those things and it would be wrong to eliminate job opportunity from more willing and needier applicants.

Here is my quandary.  While I am well qualified for many things I have been unable to capture interviews for type the work I would like to be doing.  I do not usually apply for work that I would prefer not to do and even when I have done so I do not get interviewed.

What do you have to do to get interviewed?

How do I reinvent myself from here?


About Mike Rembis

There's so much to tell, where do I begin?


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January 2012

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Mike Rembis

Mike Rembis

There's so much to tell, where do I begin?

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