The Face of Amazon

The Face of Amazon

Amazon‘s an incredible company. Its shares have risen 70% this year thanks to the China virus, making its value around $1.56 TRILLION. That’s a lot of dough. And the founder, Jeff Bezos, unsurprisingly, is the world’s richest person with a personal worth of around $186 billion. Not bad. He’s a mad genius to pull off what he has, to say the very least.

And he has no intention of slowing down. Amazon’s on a hiring spree, and it is a solid company. A great investment in other words. Some companies are easy to identify as such. Tesla. Netflix was one back in the day. I bought that stock when it was about $5.80 but had to sell it to survive. And I can pick stocks very well. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have play money to parlay into massive wealth.

In any case, and relatedly, I happen to work for Amazon. And when I got to work yesterday I was informed the media would be there during the morning and I would be the person to represent the company.

I’m glad I showered. There are thousands of people that work at that location, and I’ve mentioned before how diverse the makeup of Amazon is. Lots of languages and religions represented. The cultures are a breadbasket of every imaginable sex, shape, color, and belief. I saw a drag queen there one day. Everyone has tattoos and colored hair and dresses as they want, from pajamas to full body hajibs. Mohawks, mullets and every color and style of hair you can dream of. Body modifications, piercings, and facial accessories galore. Today was actually a day they wanted people to come to work in their pajamas to raise money, and I thought “people wear their pajamas in here to work every day. Am I the only one that’s noticed?” Apparently so.

So when it’s time to present Amazon to the public, who do they turn to? Who is it that they think Amazon looks like? A West-coast Seattle company that is all about breaking the norms and achieving the best? Apparently a middle-aged white man. I find that interesting. There are lots of men and women that work there who are older than I am. And many, unsurprisingly, who are younger. And every nationality around: lots of Africans, Asians, Hispanics….not many Europeans, though. Many women. And men who want to be women and vice versa. Thousands of people to choose from. And Amazon chose me. I also think has to do with the fact I do my job very well and I tend to dress relatively nicely. But it was flattering.

Three different media groups came through and filmed me. Here’s the local Louisville story.

The other two will be on CNBC and Fox Business News hopefully. Who knows where that footage will end up?

Update on the Job Hunt

Update on the Job Hunt

As the media and politicians sustain this COVID-19 mess until November 3rd, when I have a feeling it will miraculously abate, it makes looking for jobs all that more complicated—and hiring for employment on the flip side. Everything has to be done virtually, which I have no problem with, but many companies still haven’t been able to adjust to the disruption as smoothly. It’s been costly in so many ways. I have friends paying rent on buildings where no one’s going—and then having to hook them up with the technology so they can WFH.

Plenty of companies have put out openings for jobs they think they may have, contract-type jobs, and some have legitimate openings. Even with the pandemic, it’s a better job market than when I graduated with my undergraduate degree. And I’ve had some great interviews lately that I believe will turn into something fruitful. I’m feeling optimistic.

I’m still working at Amazon in the meantime, though, as a “placeholder job.” I don’t mean that as a slight to the job itself, the people that do it, or in an arrogant way at all. Not only am I happy to have the job, but I also enjoy it a lot of the time. I’ll bet many people can’t say that. It allows me to stay healthy physically and engages me mentally, and myjob(s) there have a gamification aspect to them, which keep them interesting and make the time go by very fast when I’m there.

There are a lot of people that work at Amazon. A lot of very different people who have very different backgrounds, stories, and motivations for working there. I’ll bet there isn’t a more diverse company on Earth. And the people that work there are generally pleased and like working there a lot. That includes me. It’s not what I’m qualified for or in my vision for what I have planned long-term, but it offers some special skills and unique, meaningful work. If I had to gripe about anything, it would be the socialistic compensation pay program and the also rather socialistic management styles and tactics. But that’s about it. Getting around the enormous rat maze that’s our building could be made more straightforward, but there must be a reason it’s like it is.

I get to see and be part of the way the most significant and most valuable company on Earth does business, and it’s something to behold. They do take good care of their employees, and take good care of their facilities and keep them clean and above-par as far as safety, and a working environment goes. Top-notch. It’s all standardized and data-driven. It’s how the government should be run; if it had to obey the same rules and regulations as the private businesses, it depends on for fuel.

Amazon standard work tenets

Amazon’s Standard Work Tenets

They offer good benefits and want their employees to feel like they belong, are heard, and have a voice there, which is a feat with hundreds of thousands of people yelling about something.

The building where I work is enormous, and it’s several floors. And everything is grey and yellow and looks the same. That means if you aren’t careful, getting lost in, there is a real possibility. It happens all the time. I’ve been a rat trapped in a maze in there many times, and it feels reminiscent of nightmares I had as a child, where I was trying to escape some vast wild world and couldn’t. It’s like being in space, where you don’t know which way is up or down (what floor you’re on) or where in the building you are. You could be anywhere. I have total freedom to roam, and there are no landmarks or ways to gather your bearings at all. It’s vast and endless, and did I mention enormous? And that’s just one operations facility. It’s a big one, but still, there are dozens. The operations there are insane. There are lots of people in the building and you could go a very long time without ever seeing a single solitary person. I’m sure I’m being watched though. There are cameras everywhere of course. The security there is a joke for the most part. I’m sure they’re well-trained, and diligent, but they aren’t there to defend the castle, should we be invaded by a Wal-Mart Army, for example. I’ve never seen anyone get in trouble for anything there, no matter the infraction. I’m sure it’s happened, but such an occurrence would be so isolated and stomped out so quickly, no one would ever now if something happened.

Conveyors and yellow totes are whirling all around you containing the latest and most extraordinary items the world has demanded and will be receiving in a day or two. The genius that Jeff Bezos has demonstrated by building such a company is astounding. Learning how it operates is a thrill as an MBA. I drink it all in. There are so many things to wonder about and be in amazement of in that building I don’t even know where to start. It’s an engineering marvel. And a construction masterpiece. A technological undertaking on the grandest of scales. To be built as well as it is to work as hard as it does and do the things required of it, day in and day out, and be kept in such immaculate shape and chugging along and safe and comfortable is mind-blowing. Technology helps with a lot of it, but it’s all out of sight. Things just work, which is an exemplary design.

I can see what’s trending in America and what this country is buying in real-time. I won’t get into that here, because frankly, it’s a bit disturbing. But it’s fascinating from a sociological perspective as well. I will say this: our population is very overweight and likes to have fun in the bedroom.

What’s nice is working somewhere you now you don’t have to stay forever, but still enjoy working there while you do, and they make it super-easy for me to interview and exit. And if I ever wanted to work for Amazon again, I have no doubt they’d hire me right back. It’s good to have something like that in your hip pocket in these uncertain times. There are lots of people who are there to make it their career. And lots of “elderly” employees, which is excellent. And lots of young ones, too. Lots of just about every type and shape, color, ethnicity, gender, and whatever label you have for a person works there. As long as you work hard and are halfway driven, they will make a place for you to help. I hear so many different languages spoken there, and see so many cultures represented; it’s like a World’s fair. Deaf people, amputees, people right off the boat, felons, runaways, retirees…you name it. And even MBAs.

A lot of the work there is great if you’re an idiot savant. There is so much volume, so many items coming through at such a fast pace, and everything is done so quickly that you need a brain that works like a computer to do some of the jobs well. People would be surprised at how mentally and physically demanding some of the typical jobs there are. It seems like you can do and go as far as you’re willing and able. They keep tabs on your productivity and quality no matter what you’re doing. Time off task and any useless nonsense are monitored as well. That’s not to say you can’t and shouldn’t take breaks or regroup every now and then. You have to, and they encourage it. But you’re expected to work towards and achieve if not break goals.

I never had a doubt that Amazon would become the world’s most valuable company, and make Jeff Bezos the richest man in the Universe. It did, and he has, just as planned. He’ll be a trillionaire. That’s pretty rich.

Amazon historical stock price

Amazon has the scale and abilities to take over the world and beyond, and I have no doubt it will. It was designed to succeed at scale, and it has. It’s what makes it so successful. So the bigger it gets, the more prosperous it becomes and it’s like the snake that eats its tail. Elon Musk and his companies will be right there behind him. Apple, Microsoft and the rest are has-beens. Yesterday’s news. Google doesn’t have the type of people it needs to be alongside them. Google has brains, but it takes more than brains to do what Jeff and Elon have planned and are doing. Google is a more insidious company, as well. As is Apple.

Amazon Outlaw

Amazon Outlaw

I’ve been working at Amazon for the past three months. It’s a job that I don’t mind, for the most part. It’s not what I’m qualified for, which is why I’ve been interviewing and looking for other opportunities every single day. But I need to work somewhere to pay bills and keep a cash flow coming in. The COVID thing disrupted the whole planet and has made it hard to bring on new employees at the level I’m looking for. I get it. And I’m patient.

Some people try to classify jobs as above or beneath them. There’s no shame in working. There’s shame in not wanting to work and not doing an excellent job of the job you have. And I’m consistently in the top 5% of the 2100 or so people that work there in terms of productivity and quality.  I hover around 96.7% and have floated around that for the time I’ve been there once I got the hang of the job, which was quick. They do an excellent job of onboarding new employees because they will hire pretty much anyone who can pass some criteria. You have to pass a drug test, which eliminates most of America. You have to have a brain. That removes a lot of the rest. And you have to want to work hard. That eliminates a lot of others. So they have a lot of turnover. Of the 30 or so that onboarded with me, only two others remain. That’s a pretty high dropout rate, which makes you wonder what a lot of Americans do to earn money.

It’s not mentally exhausting by any means, but it does require a bit of focus and the ability to work at a consistently fast pace, and it’s physical, which I enjoy. As I get older, I cherish opportunities to exercise and keep in shape. I’m in great shape. That means I can play with my daughter and keep up with her and haul her around in her wagon and carry her 45-pound monkey frame around with me wherever we go. I can scoop her up and take her with one arm for about 10 or 15 minutes before needing to switch arms. With her wiggling the whole time. That’s pretty good for a man my age and size, I think.  Far better than most Americans who can barely lift their butts off the couch.

Amazon keeps track of all sorts of data, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. They monitor everything. It’s a huge company. The most valuable company on Earth. And it didn’t become so by cutting corners. They have a unique culture there. It’s a Seattle based company, which means it was born out of left coast ideals. And not surprisingly, it’s a “liberal” company. Jeff Bezos, the founder, and President owns the Washington Post. A media outlet that consistently hands out liberal/leftist propaganda. That’s indisputable, although I’m sure some people would want to try. They would fail because of the mountain of evidence that exists.

Amazon's inner workings

I probably broke about fifteen Amazon rules taking this photo, but as I said, I’m an outlaw!

And I don’t write much about politics on my website, but we’re in an election year, and there are political goings-on afoot.  And I follow politics intimately. I always have because I have a member of my family that worked in a short-lived administration back in the 1970s, and it sparked my interest as a child when I visited the White House. I have a photo floating around somewhere of me behind the vice president’s desk with my feet up on it as a kid. I’d love to find that. I’ve been on a personal tour of the White House.

But I suddenly found a strict parallel between how Amazon is run and how the left in this country wants things to be run. Amazon is enormous, and I believe it almost represents the USA in it’s demographic and societal makeup. Maybe more than I know. They hire some interesting people. They certainly don’t discriminate. I’ve seen deaf people being taught how to do their job via sign language. I see women amputees. There are a lot of Africans that work there. And Hispanics. And don’t forget gay people. They are everywhere there, which is fine. One of the first “Learning Ambassadors” that I came across had more makeup and hair product than a Vegas showgirl. And he was male.  They’re unusually flamboyant. Uncomfortably tight shorts,  Most people there seem to be tattooed. Girls with mohawks, buzzcuts, and every color hair imaginable. Lots of body modifications, like giant holes in the earlobes. I, and Amazon, applaud their “individuality” like everyone else there.  It’s ok to look different, as long as you look the same. Since I’ve been there, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and the types that stick around and who’s management material.

I studied operations management while I was getting my MBA, so I’m not unfamiliar with the way Amazon works. I used to write algorithms to optimize throughput for companies like Amazon in Excel for practice. So I’m not their everyday shift monkey. I wonder what training my “managers” actually have. Amazon doesn’t use the terms “manager” or “supervisor” or “director” or such delineating and appropriately descriptive tags for employees. They are referred to as “Process Assistants” and “Learning Ambassadors.” They aren’t there to manage you. They’re there to assist you. And they do when you need it or “the system,” tells them that something needs to be corrected or worked on, like a quality issue. It’s all done via computer. Each one is attached to a laptop they carry around to show them what to do. Everything is monitored, and it’s as if an AI brain dictates what to do next.

And if there’s a problem, they usually are on it fast. It’s a great place to work when issues are identified and looked at so quickly. Everything happens there rapidly. It’s what makes Amazon Amazon. We get your orders to you fast. There isn’t much human interaction, which is by design. People cause errors, not computers or robots.

And that’s something that struck me when I was reprimanded the other night by a “Process Assistant.” A young guy I like a lot, of the three or so managers in my area. No one knows who does what. My “Supervisor” never introduced himself. He just goes around asking if there’s anything I need or if there’s anything to talk about, which is good, but it’s sprung upon me as he walks by my work station so that I have nothing prepared. One second he’s there, the next, he’s gone. If we were to have a sit-down meeting or review, as most companies do, I would have a long list of issues to discuss, of course. I’m asked when I check in to my work station via computer a series of questions like “Do I trust my supervisor?”

Well, if I answer “No,” then I’m deeming him untrustworthy, which I don’t even know him well enough to make that call. If I answer “Yes,” then I’m saying I know him well enough to trust him, which I don’t. I don’t know him at all. And those are the types of questions that greet you when you get ready to work your shift.

Keep in mind this description of my work-life is what I perceive the left in the USA wants to have as a governmental style. “Do you trust your senator?”   Answer yes or no.

So when I ended my shift, at 5:00 AM, I went to the breakroom to grab my Coke I left in the refrigerator. It was actually about 5:10-5:15, because I worked until 5, and then clocked out and cleaned up my area and did the things I needed to for the next person that would work where I was. I believe in working the time you’re supposed to, and not bailing at 4:45 or 4:50 like I see others do. So there’s no one left by that time. Just me and the managers, and even most of them are gone by that time. The million square foot area is a ghost town. Just a lot of conveyor belts and workstations and machinery to keep the place chugging along at a good clip.

And then I did the unthinkable. I went down the stairs that were meant for people to go up.

These are the stairs that, under normal circumstances, people would go up one side and down the other on the other side of the railing, which splits the stairs into two. Because of social distancing, these stairs were made into “UP-ONLY” stairs, and to get to down from the mezzanine, which is where I work,  I would have to travel about 100 yards across the floor, go down the stairs, then walk back to the exact location the UP-Only stairs led, which was the main entrance/exit of the building. I ran down the stairs and out the door. Total time: 3 seconds. No one else was around, except the security guard down below. No one. It was the end of the workweek as well, which means people fled the building even more hurriedly than usual.

amazon-stairs

The Scene of the Crime.

And when I returned three, almost four days later to work, I had a reason to approach a process assistant(manager) about an issue/anomaly I discovered. This is a guy I like, although he wears his hair in a man-bun. And he’s probably at least 20 years my junior. But he’s approachable and pleasant. And sometimes he’ll play music over the PA system when it hits the 4:00 hour, and we’ve all been good little workers. A special treat, where people shout out and whoop across the giant building, and it reminds me of prison movies where you can hear inmates yelling and singing across the echoing halls.

And he said, “I need to talk to you about how you left your shift the other night.” I knew exactly what he was talking about, and it was hilarious. I replied and asked if he was talking about going down the up stairs. Of course, he was. And his response was, “It’s like these masks – I don’t like wearing them, but we have to.” But it isn’t like that. We do wear proper masks at work to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. It’s more like if I was in an empty building and took off my mask and a voice came over the PA system and said: “Mr. Musgrove, please put your mask back over your face, for the safety of yourself and others.”

It hit me that Amazon expects its employees to be mindless drones. Don’t think for yourself, just do what you’re told, and you’ll be happy because we said so.

Ours is not to question why?

Ours is but to do or die.

This type of totalitarianism is precisely what the left in the USA is demanding right now, with their “CHOP” zone in Seattle, where Amazon’s headquarters is located. Rationed music, pre-approved happiness, and “be like everyone else.”

One of the things my job provides is a glimpse into what’s trending across the US, what people are buying as a result of some cultural catalysts. I see a lot of White Fragility books going out these days with the #BLM craziness. And something I’ve sent out en masse is a Sesame Street book titled “We’re different, we’re the same, and We’re all Wonderful.”

I get the intention, but this is teaching a falsehood to children. We ARE all different, correct. And most of us have the potential to be wonderful. Not everyone turns out to be, which is evidenced by just looking on social media. But we’re not all the same. That’s collectivist, socialist propaganda. It’s ok to look different in other words, but it’s not ok to think differently. We must all think the same way. And who gets to decide what we believe? Lately, it’s the media and politicians, which is a joke. They don’t have your best interests at hand, I assure you. No one but yourself will ever take care of yourself as you will. That’s a fact. But some people are more than willing to turn over their minds to others. That’s a shame and frightening. The manager that scolded me for going down the upstairs when no one else was in the building has given his mind to Amazon to control. And a lot of Americans want to give their minds ()to “the government” to use.

I watched the President’s State of the Union Address the other night again from start to finish, which means from when all the representatives and senators and people in control of this country entered the hallowed chamber that President Trump gave his remarkable speech in. You should watch it and get a good look at the people filing into that room. They are influential people. And for the most part, they look like sacks of crap. Seriously.

I tried not to focus on Nancy Pelosi in the background licking her lizardy lips and shuffling through the papers in front of her as if she’d misplaced her grocery list. It’s all a charade, and a staged act by her. She’s all hat and no cows. She was building up the courage and steam for her “ta-da” moment when she ripped up the state of the union address behind the President’s back.  I find it disgraceful, but there are people among us that think that behavior is lovely. It doesn’t matter who the President is, tearing up the SOTU like that is childish and an indication you have nothing left. It was a historical state of the union address, and she treated it like she manages her district she hails from. Landfill garbage. Which is what San Franciso, once a beautiful bay city, has become under her bony claw.

So to summarize, I can see America becoming a lot like Amazon in the future years, whenever the Democrats regain control, which they will, one day, of course. It’s a political pendulum. I see a lot of similarities between how the operations of Amazon is run and how Democrats want to run things.  And while the productivity levels are going up, things are beautiful. But there’s a lot of compromises to be had. The happiness factor, for one. Amazon isn’t unlike North Korea now that I think about it. Let that sink in as we have forces pushing us to be a Blue Badge Amazon Nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want Your Startup to Fail? Then Don’t Do These Things.

Want Your Startup to Fail? Then Don’t Do These Things.

Successful Startup Tips

Everyone’s heard the line that half of all new businesses fail within the first 5 years, or whatever the made-up statistic is. To truly know what’s going on with startup businesses, it would be wise to narrow the discussion down to a segment, industry, geographical area, or combination thereof. So it doesn’t do much good to generalize, or even worry about what people say as far as that goes because what you should be interested in is what space you’ll be playing in. America’s business scene is too dynamic to make such generalizations, which is a great thing to be able to say, as an American. Who happens to be interested in business.

I’ve written enough business and marketing plans, interviewed enough business owners, and been in and around business at this point in my life to know why most businesses fail. And just as importantly, why and how startups succeed. 

The biggest mistake: Not making sure the numbers work.

What I see more than anything is an eagerness to rush to market before doing due diligence and research and working the numbers.

Is your product/service even marketable? Have you tested it out in the marketplace? How? There are lots of ways. But make sure people are even willing to pay money for your value proposition. And even if they SAY they would, that’s a lot different from actually laying their money down, so beware.

Trying your product out in the real world is a step to gather some numbers. Pricing is a tricky science/art. It’s helpful to know some finance and economic theory when pricing out goods. It shouldn’t be a guessing game.

A website I visit daily is Product Hunt. I was one of the early members way back when founder Ryan Hoover was rolling it out, which he did very responsibly, as a Y-Combinator project. And he’s continued to build it into a serious business that is widely used (and actually makes money!)

product hunt logo

But what Product Hunt does is introduce new products and services that are “hunted” down by early adopters, developers, designers, marketers, and other people that I like. Those goods and services are then upvoted by the public, and you can talk to the makers and discuss the products. It’s a great way to find some ways to work more efficiently and some nice design, development and writing tools.

But since it’s inception a few years ago, I’ve watched thousands of new products come and go on that site and read and talked to the makers/proprietors. And many of the products, when deployed to make money, fail as businesses. They didn’t do their homework, didn’t see if there was a marketable demand for their offering, and didn’t make sure the numbers worked. Many of the hunted products are side hustles developers and Silicon Valley types unveil there, who know a lot about programming, but nothin about business. So it goes.

But it doesn’t end there. That’s just the beginning. Forecasting sales and demand for new products is difficult. But with some hard work and smarts, you, or someone with an MBA, should be able to formulate some realistic scenarios. Work the numbers. Pay your taxes, your licensing, lease, vendors, employees, and throw in a realistic, workable marketing budget among all your many other expenses and see what your margins look like. (This is where a lot of people would/should go back to the drawing board when they see that their “Next Uber” idea may not work.)

The second biggest mistake: No Business Plan

Believe it or not, a lot of businesses start with no plan written out. Just some random goals and a pile of money and a lot of sweat, blood, and tears. If you don’t develop a plan, you don’t know where you’re going, or what to do if you get off course. You don’t know when you’ve reached important goals, haven’t set any goals, and have set sail into a stormy sea with no compass or guidance. It happens all the time.

Writing out a business plan, and it should be written, may sound like a chore, but it’s critical. If you can’t write out your business plan, then it may be worthwhile to reassess the idea.

A business plan doesn’t have to be a 300-page tome with illustrations, slide deck and citations.  It can be fairly simple, but it should be thorough and make sense. You should be able to show it to a banker and not be laughed out of the room.

There are a lot of resources for business plans. The SBA is a great place to start and more specifically, S.C.O.R.E..

The third biggest mistake: No Marketing Plan

Marketing plan? What’s that? I’ve worked for businessmen and women and companies that have been around for decades and are highly profitable that have never bothered to devise a marketing plan.

So, why bother, if they’re that successful, you ask? Because if they had bothered to either hire a marketer like me or produce a marketing plan themselves, their $100 million+ businesses very well could be $1 billion+ businesses. If that’s something they’d be interested in, and you have to assume that’s why they do what they do.

I’m not making that up, either. But strange things happen over time with privately-held companies. And the strangeness is fine. But if a marketing plan were in place and being followed and used as a guide, business owners wouldn’t end up with a profitable train wreck on their hands, which happens. A lot. It sounds like a fine scenario, minus the train-wreck thing, no? But what do you do with a business that might have 300+ employees that depend on you and no one wants to buy you out because it’s such a mess, and you have no one to pass the business on to?

In addition to serving as a guide, a well-written marketing plan also sets important goals and reigns in scope and scale. In this age of mega multi-channel marketing, there’s an urge to go haywire and position yourself everywhere possible. That’s not a wise tactic.

As with so much in life, preparation is the key to success. Please do yourself a favor and make sure that the energy, time and money you’re about to invest is going to the right places and doing the right work. It makes all the difference.

Want to Find a New Job? Brace Yourself.

Want to Find a New Job? Brace Yourself.

A job I had for about a year and a half while I was getting my MBA at The University of Alabama was working in the Graduate School of Business helping business graduate students find jobs. That included internships for MBA students during the summer between years in the 2-year program, and locating full-time employment upon graduating. The people I helped ranged between new graduates getting their Masters in Marketing, Finance, Accounting or whatever to experienced older students returning to get their MBA, such as I was doing and wanted to springboard into an executive corporate position or enter the workforce at a higher level than previously possible. Their fate, future employment, and livelihoods rested in my hands to no small degree, so I worked hard to learn how to network, craft resumes, and position oneself to land jobs. You’d think with that experience I’d be able to snag any job I want.

During that time I reviewed and edited several hundred resumes, working with the students to make them laser-focused on the work they desired at the companies they desired, many being Fortune 500 companies. I’m an English major, a former editor, and at the time a current editor, editing Ph.D. students’ and professors’ academic journal submissions and Ph.D. theses, which consisted of making the simplest of concepts as complex and magniloquent as possible. So I have some writing, proofreading and copywriting skills. I also helped them write scripts for video resumes. I love to write, so all this was right up my alley.

I’ve also interviewed and hired countless candidates for all sorts of positions, from web developers to graphic designers, to counter help, to simply an endless list of positions and people. However, one thing I would never claim to be is a recruiter or HR expert. Evaluating someone for a specific position and coming up with a compensation package isn’t something just anyone can do, contrary to how a lot of people end up being hired. People generally aren’t very good at judging others and tend to look at superficial factors and elements that are irrelevant to the job. One look at our civil servants will attest to this.

Something that I believe would be useful for nearly every hiring manager that’s going to be working with the person they’re hiring is having all serious candidates take the Predictive Index. I’ve taken it, and it’s surprisingly accurate and immensely useful for people to get a grasp on what someone’s all about who they haven’t ever met before. It helps managers know what makes their employees tick as well. Useful information for effective management, for sure, especially when things might get sticky which, if you work hard and long enough with people, they will. People are variables, so knowing how to best help solve circumstances that may arise with and between them is valuable.

The concept of those doing the hiring not being as skilled at hiring as they should be is what I think a lot of frustrated job seekers overlook when they commiserate over not being able to find a job. I read a lot of posts and articles on LinkedIn and business periodicals about how companies won’t hire older workers, black workers, female workers, or whatever the discriminatory claim may be. In a sense, they’re right. But I don’t think the discrimination is as overt and blatant as alleged.

Please note, I’m not bashing the people entrusted to do the hiring on a personal level – it’s just what happens. I’ve been there. It’s just a poor longstanding management practice that can be improved upon and would make some extraordinary gains within the company.

Claiming bias is an easy thing to do. Talk is cheap, and it’s easy enough for me to see that as far as companies passing over older workers that are well-suited for positions, the issue is real. The investigations into and legal consequences stemming from proven cases are far less than racial and gender discrimination, however. It’s really just a hard thing to prove, even though I’ve personally seen some egregious fouls when it comes to hiring and asking about age. Papa John’s corporate website asks right off the bat how old you are when applying on their site, for example.  But is that illegal? Obviously not. Is it strange and off-putting to potential employees? Definitely.

I’m currently looking for work, and between a previous job search and this one, I’ve applied to well over 200 jobs. For a time I kept statistics on the results of my efforts, but after several months, it became an exercise that was more depressing than beneficial. However, I saw many patterns and learned a lot by going through the onerous steps and rings of fire that I went through during the search. Perhaps someone can learn some things from my work.

As I mentioned, I have some expertise in crafting resumes. Is mine perfect? No. But it’s pretty good and better than most. (When you’re unemployed, hiring someone to help you with your resume seems like a luxury, unless you’re really in dire need.) I hone my resume for each position I apply for. I write a customized cover letter for each position I apply for, and get the name of the hiring manager, if at all possible. Some companies want to keep applicants at arm’s length though and don’t provide ANY contact information, even on their website or LinkedIn. And some don’t want to be bothered by them at all, I’ve learned. There’s a Fortune 50 company in town here that set up an interview with me, and the telephone interview was pre-recorded and recorded my answers to a bunch of generic “tell me about a time you encountered a difficult situation and how you overcame it” type questions. I couldn’t believe it. By far, the worst experience I’ve had with interviews. You don’t get any feedback to your answers, and honestly, I was so shocked by the format, I had trouble concentrating on my answers for the first 10 minutes or so. Which supports my theory which is this:

The people doing the hiring have no specialized hiring skills or respectable level of experience hiring employees for the positions for which they’ve been tasked. They are typically just other employees within the department which has a position to fill. And when they’re choosing who to hire, they look for people that seem like themselves or they think they’ll get along with or enjoy working with. Not the person who’s best for the job, foremost. Personal traits are important — don’t get me wrong. But they shouldn’t be the priority. And even when that aspect is dismissed, the temporary “hiring manager” still doesn’t know what to ask, what to look for exactly, how to ask interview questions, or how to assess potential employees.

My evidence to support my theory is strong. Including my own experiences. When I was last hired, I was hired by a company that consisted of a lot of middle-aged white men who shared the same political views as me and we were part of the same “culture.” Nothing wrong with that, per se. There was plenty of diversity at the company, and there were more women that worked there than men and all races were accounted for. But the guys that hired me were part of my demographic. And I believe that’s why a lot of middle-aged men, and women, are looked over by those looking to hire, who these days are younger and of a different demographic group in a number of factors. Political ideology, number of children, marriage, (even number of tattoos in some cases.) I think race and gender play lesser factors in 2019 than age and political stances, personally.

I’m guilty of this as well. I’ve been put in positions to hire subordinates and it’s too easy to just toss a resume out of dozens or even hundreds in the “nope” pile or pass over someone for reasons that may or may not be appropriate. Instead of looking for factors that make a strong candidate and aptitudes we can build upon, we start looking for things that make them an unappealing candidate. It’s easy to do.

As an aside, I also believe this phenomenon to be a major reason our public schools are in such a mess. Where I live in Louisville, KY, which is one of the largest public school systems in the country, the school system couldn’t be any more jacked up. The state’s been trying to come in to take over the system because the people entrusted to run it have done such an abysmal job. The obvious reason to me is that the people running the massive operation are school teachers, not trained business, project management or operations experts whatsoever. The opposite experience, in fact. But they hire others like themselves and put people in positions they shouldn’t be because of superficial and political factors, not because they are qualified for the jobs, which are some serious and difficult jobs which require a lot of skill, experience, and training for. Not a teaching certificate and Masters of Education. They need MBAs, in fact.

But back to the job search. Modern job searches are far easier for the candidate and the employer than ever before. While the temptation to blast out a zillion resumes all over the internet is great, that shotgun approach doesn’t work. And, if you have a resume like mine that attracts recruiters that want to place high-income earners, don’t be surprised to be inundated by cold-calling recruiters that have all sorts of positions available. (That they can’t discuss or reveal, and look suspiciously like a lot of the jobs that are posted on Google jobs, Indeed, or any other number of job posting sites. Kind of a turn-off.)

Monster.com used to the go-to place for jobs. It was a terrible experience for years and as such, seems to have been put in its place. I don’t even see it mentioned anymore as a contender for job searches by anyone. LinkedIn, Google Jobs, Indeed, and Glass Door seem to be the hot spots, for the time being. And lots of niche sites for tech jobs, remote jobs, freelance jobs, etc… (None really for MBAs, which may be something to look into as a side project…) And then there are a TON of websites that scrape jobs from these sites and offer the chance to see postings, as long as you give them your personal information and sign up for their site to be spammed by them daily. Don’t do it. It’s a waste of time. Even state employment websites are nothing but the same scraping-type site with the same jobs free available with a google search.

But what about the jobs that aren’t posted? Well, I go to the company sites that I believe may have a need for the type work I do–marketing, marketing strategy, and advanced marketing with an MBA and some serious experience, which is comprised of a lot more than being able to manage social media accounts. I know advanced data analysis and project management and can manage a large enterprise with big budgets and P&Ls. And a lot more. I send LinkedIn messages to some people that might be able to help me, which is a premium feature. And I get no responses usually. Which just makes you wonder.

I don’t make excuses. I’m a problem solver and an opportunity-finder. I have a growth mindset. I’ve taught myself how to code and how to use Photoshop and Illustrator and InDesign and all sorts of software to stay relevant. I am a lifelong learner and love cutting edge technology and finding ways to use it. Every problem has a solution, and my job is finding the best ones available. So while an ongoing job search isn’t my idea of fun, it’s a numbers game. And persistence, and optimism, and strength and a test of one’s will.

Here’s been my experience with looking for jobs. While a lot of this is tongue in cheek, a lot of it is the truth and what I’ve actually experienced.

Jobs a-plenty out there! So what happens when it’s time to apply? You’ll fill out an application online usually, which consists of uploading a resume. However, that is a preface to filling in, line by line, your resume and all your personal information again. And then answering several pages of legal questions about your race, citizen status, sex, your veteran status, whether you have a disability, your blood type, your favorite food, music, movies, and so on. Then you’ll include languages you know and how well you can speak and write them. Then a list of skills you’ll need to provide for their job-search agent software. Then a list of certificates, additional awards, and other details that might be pertinent. Then all your social media links and a link to your online portfolio. (You do have a professional portfolio on hand, don’t you?) Then you can upload any other files that they might want. Then you can upload your cover letter, which should be customized and proofread. You can then review your information, and hit submit. Chances are 50/50 that you won’t get an error message or a notice that you’ve timed out and need to start over.

Once that has been submitted, you may or may not get an email that the company has received your information via generic “do not respond” email. Then you may or may not ever hear from them. If you do, it’s an invitation to interview over the phone with a preliminary person who takes notes on you to pass along to someone else that might want to interview you. If that decision is made, which usually takes a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to speak to an employee that may or may not work in the department you’ll be working in. They’ll ask you questions about your resume, your past and current interest in their company and chat about how desperately they need a person in the position, then inform you it’ll be 3 or 4 weeks until someone can look at the candidates and make some decisions. You most likely won’t hear from them again and will see that they’ve posted for the position again on Google Jobs. Or, a month later you’ll get another generic, “Thanks but no thanks” email from them.

Sometimes the interviews go really well, and you make it to round 4 or 5 and get to either speak with a decision-maker or go in for an in-person interview. For me, these usually go really well, and I leave very optimistically. I do much better speaking to people face to face than over the phone, and enjoy face-time rather than our cell phones going in and out while the interviewer is driving down the highway, which happens more than I can believe. When I show up and they see the amount of grey hair I have, however, things seem to change. Apparently, they think I’m some sort of wizard or sorcerer that’s come to cast revenue-decreasing spells upon their books, when in fact it’s the opposite.

And after that interview, as we part ways laughing and everything seems like it couldn’t have gone better, there’s no telling what will happen. I’ve had no follow up at all until I follow up and discover they’re hired someone else and forgot to inform me, or decided that even though it was once a life-or-death situation, they decided not to hire anyone and are just putting the decision off, even though what I offer the company on a silver platter directly and positively impacts the bottom line. I had one guy who was the partner at a local marketing/web-design-type company tell me I was the perfect candidate, except that I didn’t have agency experience. Apparently owning and running one while working within it doesn’t count. As well as working with agencies all the time. And then told me that was probably a good thing. But let the position sit open for months and months, and in fact, is still open. Apparently, their company isn’t the type that’s interested in making more money. My position pays for itself in spades. Letting it sit open isn’t smart and is bad business. But what do I know? Here’s a good article discussing three things hiring managers want to know in an interview.

Here’s a copied/pasted explanation from a company I recently sent an application to with the steps to be hired, as an example. I’ve deleted the company’s name because that doesn’t matter. But just to give you an idea of what awaits you, time-wise.

Candidates for this position can expect the hiring process to follow the order below. Please keep in mind that candidates can be declined from the position at any stage of the process. To learn more about someone who may be conducting the interview, find her/his job title on our team page.

  • Qualified candidates receive a short questionnaire from our Global Recruiters.
    1. What would differentiate you and make you a great marketing program manager for ACME Corp?
    2. What is your knowledge of the space that ACME Corp. is in? (e.g. industry trends).
    3. Generally, how would you describe the communication preferences of developers and technical IT management?
  • Selected candidates will be invited to schedule a screening call with one of our Global Recruiters.
  • Candidates will complete a take-home exercise preparing a spreadsheet of event attendees for use in a marketing program, and send the completed exercise to our Marketing Operations Manager.
  • Next, candidates will be invited to schedule a series of 45 minute interviews with our Marketing Operations Manager, Online Marketing Manager, and Content Marketing Manager.
  • Candidates will then be invited to schedule 45 minute interviews with our Senior Director of Marketing and Sales Development and CMO.
  • Finally, our CEO may choose to conduct a final interview.
  • Successful candidates will subsequently be made an offer via email

Additional details about our process can be found on our hiring page.

Here’s another cut/paste from an actual marketing job posting detailing their hiring process. This isn’t unique, but you have to imagine what the timeline usually is for arranging this many face-to-face interviews is with this many busy people, including yourself. Typically it’s at least one month, and I’ve had the process last as many as three months because they’re interviewing at least several other candidates they need to arrange all these interviews with as well, if not more than several. Then all these people have to meet with one another to discuss each candidate along the way. It doesn’t come across as the “need to hire yesterday” issue that you’re told. And if it is, then you have to also wonder if this is how all important decisions are made at that company.

Hiring Process

  • 30-minute screening with our Global Recruiters
  • Interview with Manager, North American Field Marketing
  • Interview with the Director of US East Sales
  • Interview with a Strategic Account Leader
  • Interview with West Field Marketing Manager
  • Interview with Chief Marketing Officer

Here’s a new question I was asked while applying at a financial services firm today:

Do you identify as LGBT?

Do you identify as LGBT?

I also think for the question “Why did you leave your last employer?” my response from here out will be “Nothing lasts.” Perhaps that’s too philosophical.

#gethired

 

 

 

Amazon Tells New York Nevermind

Amazon Tells New York Nevermind

At the last minute, for Amazon to decide to not locate their much-anticipated HQ2 in New York because they were obviously not welcome there by the government and loudmouthed activists, is an example of how insane some situations have become between politicians and capitalists. If you look at the photos of the people who don’t want Amazon to locate there, you have to wonder, how in the world would it even impact them personally? In New York, the people trust the government to make the decisions for them, whether that’s about abortion or economics and finance. Both issues the government was never intended to be a tool to handle for the people it represents. And both times it failed. New York is a collectivist state and allows mob rule to employ a few people to make decisions on behalf of the entire state, much like a socialist state. Much like Venezuela, in fact. There are the people at the top that make the decisions and tell the people at the bottom what decisions they should be making, which is what enriches the people at the top. It’s a fascinating arrangement to watch from afar.

Who were the winners and losers here? Well, Take Amazon. They lost nothing. They’re still the biggest company on Earth. Take New York. They lost the chance for tens of thousands of high paying -high skilled jobs, billions in tax money, a spike in intellectual capital to move to the place, a flagship hub of commerce to be placed where cities lined up to have the very opportunity they threw away and more. It could have been the beginning of an East Coast Silicon Valley, for better or worse. When companies locate to cities like that they inevitably create opportunities that were never imagined and give back to the citizens in ways never asked. It draws attention and intellectual resources to the spot where they’re located. There’s a reason cities were lining up for years jockeying to be the place Amazon chose. And New York told them to get lost. Because of short-term political egos and power plays. Not for the benefit of the people of New York and any long term success.

I’m not sure how DeBlasio or anyone can begin to think New York is now better off than they would have been with Amazon locating their HQ2 there. Jeff Bezos knows a thing or two about business and planning for and funding the future. Much more than anyone in government does. And Bezos might not know as much as they do about how government works, but that may be just as well. No one seems to know how the government should work, and at the same time, everyone seems to know. Northern Virginia was the real winner here, and that will be felt down into North Carolina.