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Job Hunter Extraordinaire

I have a wonderful job… now. It took me a long time to find the right one. With the trouble so many people have in finding work, or finding the right work, my story could help you or someone you know. If you or anyone you know are thinking of joining the military, or going to law school, or looking for a job in a troubled market, this is the post for you.

I am an executive recruiter, so I go looking for high-powered execs to fill holes in leadership teams. But I went through a lot of jobs to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Here is my story.

While I was growing up, my dad worked – when I was a baby he was his own boss, running a 1-man company called Aqua Electronics where he serviced the tuna fleet. The tuna fleet left to Samoa when the US said we didn’t want to do things like killing cute little fishies any more, so dad got a job working for other people. He changed jobs every couple of years until he started another company: Fourward Technologies. That’s Four Wards, as in my 3 original brothers and me. It’s a tough name to stick to now that there’s technically 10 of us through marriage.

I learned a few things watching Dad work: He loved what he did, he worked a lot of hours, and he traveled a lot. I also saw him take a night job, teaching Calculus at City College here in San Diego. He seemed to like that too. As he likes to say, “Everyone in my family is either a dirt farmer or a teacher.” I guess he leans toward the teacher side.

My first “job” was working for my mom in her network marketing business. She sold Sunrider (and still does, for that matter). I would call and place product orders. I would take calls from customers and fill them (and collect the checks when they came to pick up the stuff). I would set up for her meetings, and tear down afterward. Later, I would run the business completely for her while she’d be away for weeks at a time to see the man who would eventually become her husband (Jeff). She would get mad because I would order a little extra here and there, but when I did that she never had to wait a week to fill her customers’ orders. I liked to get out ahead of the need a bit, that’s all.

After I left her home, I had no marketable experience. I worked for my dad for the few months I lived at his office, making $8.50/hour. I thought I was so rich! I could pay for the car I was driving, I could go out with my friends, and I could attend every concert that came to town. I always had great seats, because I would call another city’s Ticketmaster line, like Los Angeles or Las Vegas, and ask questions about the things coming to town for 10 minutes. They’d ultimately talk about the concert I wanted to attend, and mention the tickets were going on sale in 3 minutes, how lucky for me (I knew this already). They’d place the order for me, and I’d always get seats in the first six rows. I doubt this tactic would work any more, but there you go.

After my short stint at Dad’s house, I ran away and lived with a friend’s family. I was motivated to find work, but I was only 17 and didn’t really know where to look. I have absolutely no interest in manual labor, so I stayed far from construction and the like. The family I stayed with had a friend who worked for the Sony plants, so I found out which staffing agency puts people in and applied. They put me to work on the CD-ROM assembly line making $6.50/hour. I was standing next to this kid who was putting himself through college with the work, and I hated every minute more than the last. After 1 day, I got sick/depressed and didn’t get out of bed. It was horrible. The staffing agency said they had another area in the plant for me to try out. I got all geared up and they put me on the end of the old TV tube oven. It was like a 1/4 mile long oven where old-style television tubes came out. They’re really hot and they sometimes break while they cook, so when they come out broken you have to stop the line, get someone to help, and take the broken tube off the line. Day 2 of this job and the tv tube sliced through 3 pairs of gloves and into my finger. I got stitched up and quit.

AIR FORCE – I really didn’t know what to do at this point. I could type, but no one needs a young guy to type for them. I had a couple of random odd jobs but nothing close to what I’d need to live. I couldn’t mooch off people forever, and I definitely couldn’t go back to my parents. What to do? My friend’s dad told me to try out the military (my previous posts relate this story) and so I ultimately chose the US Air Force. The family I was with had a cousin who worked in the office where you choose your jobs, so she gave me a cheat sheet to study as I waited for boot camp to start, and she told me about 13 special tests the military has for their more important jobs in the enlisted work force. All of the services use them, and their recruiters never tell you this, but it’s also the only way to get the good jobs, no matter how smart you are.

The first thing you have to do to join the military is take the ASVAB. It’s easy. If you do terribly, just take whatever job you can and try to make yourself smarter. If you’re that dumb you probably can’t read this post anyway. If you do well, the other tests become available to you – but you have to ask for them or you’ll never hear about them. I took two of the special tests – the DLAB (to get into language school) and the EDPT (mathematics test to get into science-heavy jobs). The DLAB test made up a fake language where, for example, the word “trash can” is “I”, the word “bear” is “am going” and the word “computer” is “to the store” so “Trash can bear computer” means “I’m going to the store.” I did well, and got into language school. I recommend anyone who wants a good job in the military take as many of the special tests as they can.

So I got into language school. I spent 16 months in beautiful Monterey, California, studying Korean. I got to pick my language because of that family friend I mentioned above. It was a good time, and not as hard as it sounds because my only job for 8 hours a day was learning language in class. I did pretty well, I tested pretty well at the end, and then I went to another school for 6 months in the armpit of Texas: San Angelo. But the classes were stimulating and I got to learn how to work in shifts. Then they sent me to Korea for a year, and then Hawaii for three more. Shortly after getting to Hawaii I realized I had better hurry up and figure things out because I wanted out of the Air Force as soon as possible.

This is where I threw myself into college (after starting and dropping out at Honolulu Community College). I finished really quickly and at the same time found that I loved my Business Law & Ethics class. So maybe I’d not only finish college but do graduate school! So how do you go to law school? You have to take a test.

LAW SCHOOL TEST: The LSAT – If you know anyone who wants to go to law school, make them read this whole blog, but especially this part of this post. The LSAT is the standardized test you have to take to get into any law school in America. And there are a couple of ways to prepare for it.

My information first came from a lawyer I knew – my school President’s son. It went like this, “When I was going to take the LSAT, my friend was too. He had better grades than me. He decided to take the Kaplan LSAT prep course, but I couldn’t afford it… it’s like 1,000 bucks. Instead, I ordered every test the LSAC (the organization that administers the LSAT) sells – because they’re all previously-administered tests from past years. I took one test each week for the 16 weeks prior to the test date, and one every day of the final week. In the end, my friend got a 155 and I go a 165.”

I listened to his advice. The same time I was taking the test, some twin girls at my university were taking it too. They went on to become valedictorian for two successive semesters. They took the Kaplan course: TWICE. I took all the old tests on my own time. They got a 155, I got a 167.

I highly advise you or anyone you know who’s going to take the LSAT, to follow my example – it works!

DISCLAIMER: If you consider yourself some sort of bookwormy genius who can’t accept a score lower than 170, then neither of the above examples will work for you.

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Back to my story. I went to law school and I was a terrible law student. I was consistently near the bottom of my class. About a year in, I ran into a friend who was a year ahead of me. He said I absolutely had to try out the MBA program. He said it made him feel smart again. He also said I could take two classes in the business school and get out of two law classes – that was enough for me!

I did much better on the MBA side; it kind of felt like high school work because it was so easy in comparison to the law school stuff.

I finished up law school in May 05, took the bar in July 05 and started my first real job 3 days later. I was working for Global Wireless Entertainment, which is now known as Skinit.com. My job lasted a year, and then I was laid off. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t prepare. You know in small companies when you’re going to be laid off – everyone looks guilty who knows. But I had long since really stopped working very much, because they didn’t include me in anything and there was no way to proactively do work (When I tried, they shoved me back into my office).

So now I was out of work. I picked up a little contracting work, but not nearly enough to pay the bills. I was getting desperate, and a very good friend hooked me up with his best friend, who gave me a shot at recruiting.

I took to it like a fish to water. Now here are my lessons on finding jobs – from the perspective of a job hunter, a headhunter, and someone who looks at resume’s each and every day. I talk to potentially hundreds of execs in a week if I’m heavy on the phones, so I know what’s out there.

Looking for a Job?
1. Clean up that resume. Make someone else look at it if you must, but make sure it’s clean and clear, like a facial scrub.

2. Look at who you know. A warm intro, so to speak, will do more than 100 blind resume send-offs. People you know are connected in some way to jobs that are open. You have to have the chutzpah to ask them, though. It’s the only way.

3. Find a company you want to work for. Figure out who the CEO is. Figure out the email format they use – it’s usually the same for all employees at a given company. Email the CEO no more than 3 well-written sentences saying why you want to work for their company. You email people you need to reach with brief emails because a) CEO’s are busy and b) you want to avoid spam filters. The CEO will get a quick idea of what you want to do for his/her company, and will pass your email along to the appropriate VP. You now have created a warm intro. If you ignore my advice and send a 20-page diatribe (or even a 1-page diatribe) listing off all the reasons you should get a job, the CEO will not have the slightest inclination to read your BS and your email will go into the trash. Find another company and send your next note along. Don’t spam the CEO – if they don’t reply, move onto another company.

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I have one more bit of advice: Don’t be a job hopper – stay in a job, if at all possible, for 3-5 years. Anything less than 2 and our clients look askance. If you have a few 1-2 year stints, you’re in deep water. If you have a 20-year career of 1-2 year stints, you can assume none of my clients would look at your resume. Why would they hire you if you’ve shown no inclination to stay with anyone else for more than 1-2 years?

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