Major career changes bring many emotions to the front. Trepidation, excitement and, at least for me, that exciting feeling you’d get in September before you started a new school year. In fact, taking it a step further, it is like starting in school after you made a move to a new district. You get a chance to leave bad things behind and add new habits that you never had before. A chance to be the person you want to be and not someone sitting on everything they did since kindergarten. With my latest career move, I had a new emotion show her face: nostalgia.
Steve Levy, my mentor and friend, introduced me to the awesome people at Mobiquity Inc and helped me get my new role. When I gave one of my many thank you calls I have made over the years to Steve, we started chatting about firms we have loved, lost and left behind. Amazingly, despite years of knowing each other, he had never heard my, shall we say, unusual introduction into the “Business We Have Chosen”.
When I graduated college, I had already been married for 6 months. Certain courses were only offered at certain times and my goal of a winter graduation was destroyed by the vagaries of what classes I had to take to actually graduate. Bottom line, it was May of 1998, I had an Ivy League degree in a pretty useless field and absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had no money and no prospects. Some Tuesdays, before my wife would get paid on Friday, we would go to the all you can eat Chinese buffet, where you could fill a Styrofoam container to the brim for 6 dollars, and we ate that until payday. I needed a job, I needed cash and I needed stability.
My resume was as sparse as the Gobi desert. I fluffed everywhere I could, from jobs such as “Senior Camp Counselor” to putting Java as a skill. Why Java? I had read a very interesting magazine article about it and said, hey, why not? As has been said before though, usually about photographs, “Don’t judge me. I was young and I needed the money. I never thought it would get out”. I faxed, snail mailed, and e-mailed 100s of resumes. If it said entry level, I applied. If it said, no experience needed I knew Jeff Newman’s resume was what was needed. After all that work, I ended up with 2 job offers. 25K and commission potential as a Junior Recruiter or 35K supervising gentleman load boxes onto trucks in the Bronx. I believed in the potential even though it was less money. Oh, and I believed what my wife said, “You’ll end up being shipped somewhere in a box after you tell someone to get back to work. Take the recruiting job.”
Now, how I got the offer at Network Dynamics and began my journey in this business is rich with irony. The job I had sent my resume for was some generic, “Are you good with people? Can you speak English? Can you pass a background check? Don’t mind long hours in exchange for commission potential? Then we have a job for YOU!” When I arrived for the interview, they told me what they had in mind. It was a 6 month entry level Java Developer role for IBM in Minnesota. I admitted to my, well, let us call it a lie, and said I was there for the technical watchmicallis recruit thingee. The interviewer said hold on one minute and stepped out. When she came back, she said Mark, the CEO, would like to meet with me. However, he could not meet with me until 1pm and could I come back then. Mind you, It was about 9:30 in the morning at this time. I answered is it OK if I wait in the office until he can see me? So, that is what I did until Mark and I met.
I cannot recall for the life of me what he asked me. I however can pretty much state, word for word what he said to me:
Jeff, you know nothing about recruiting. You know nothing about technology. In fact, you don’t know anything about business, period. However, I am going to give you a chance as anyone who will wait over 6 hours for an interview has persistence and a work ethic that I think will make them successful. I am going to give you 30 days, and personally train you, and we’ll see what happens.
I was with Network Dynamics for over 4 years.
Now, I am going to give you all the other dirt underneath the surface, in a way just as sketchy as that Java line in my skill set. I didn’t wait for that interview with Mark because of my work ethic. My work ethic is how I made a success out of a 30 day trial period. I didn’t wait because of my persistence either. My persistence is what made me stay in the industry after the Y2K boom went bust, after the .com bubble burst, after the post 9/11 NY-mini recession and the collapse of Lehman Brothers which devastated NY Staffing. I waited 6 hours as I had 1 subway token to get home and there was free coffee and magazines to read. What else was I going to do?
I don’t feel that terrible, as the “Personal Training” wasn’t what I had anticipated either. I was given a script and a database. No one had used the database in 2 years. I was told, start at A and call everyone until you get to Z. Get everyone’s resume, one at a time. I sat in on all the job order meetings in between trolling the database and it started to click. By my second week, I brought a resume of someone I had spoken with to Mark. I said that I wasn’t sure but it sounded like this person fit the bill of that job that was open. That was my first placement.
15+ years later, not only am I still doing it, I am about to start a role that I have been working towards my entire career, a Talent Acquisition Specialist for an amazing firm doing awesome things! You never know what life may bring. When I took the job, I didn’t even know there was an industry dedicated to finding and placing people. Now, I cannot imagine doing something not involved in the world of Staffing.
My take away from this is something that I try and practice with all my candidates. It is not about a skill list. It is not about work ethic. It is not about your prior experiences, how nice your references say you are, how deep your LinkedIn contacts, or how quickly you can learn. It is about all of those things. It is YOU, the full packages, and everything that it comprises. Oh yeah, I also learned how to ask questions so I don’t get someone that only read a book on Mobile Applications, but that is a whole other article!