Thom’s Blog Carnival

September 30th, 2006

So there’s this thing called a blog carnival where someone poses an interesting question and then other bloggers respond to it. The “host” will then link back to all the responses, and you get to read all kinds of perspectives on one issue. Sounds fun, so I thought I’d toss my hat into this ring.

Note, Thom is the author of “Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships”… you can hop on over to his website for more info. Here’s his question:

What is your best tip on how to make, grow and keep your business relationships – and turn them into real business?

Aha. The “best tip.” I’m a list guy, and I hate to have a list of just one thing! So let me throw a few tips out there, and then at the end I’ll see if I can come up with my favorite one 😉 Reading through this simple question makes me think the response can actually be categorized into four different areas (yep, I got this nasty habit from my MBA program – this question has 4 sub-questions):

Make business relationships

  • Realize that you are always making business relationships. Some of these relationships are obvious, like a vendor or partner from another customer. But the less obvious might be a receptionist at your company, or someone in AP or HR. You never know where these people might be in 2 years, and your relationship with them then might be dramatically different than what it is now.
  • Conscientiously make an effort to make a new internal relationship each week (or day or month or whatever). That is, meet someone new that you haven’t had a chance to develop a relationship with.
  • Same thing, but do it with someone external (vendor, customer, peer, etc.)
  • Find a power-connector in your industry or specialty (which would bridge industries). This could be a headhunter, someone is sales (that is out meeting tons of folks), etc. Develop a relationship with this person, to the point that they know you and try and connect you with some of their contacts.
  • Just do it. I know you are busy, and so is everyone else, but just pick up the phone and ask someone to lunch today. Today.

Grow business relationships

  • Continually keep in touch with people that you have met. This can be hard without an organizational system (hey, speaking of, I know just the free tool!), but it really is critical. Your first encounter just introduces you, you should continue to have communication and develop a deeper relationship.
  • Understand that you should be in touch with some contacts frequently (weekly?) and others infrequently (perhaps every 6 months?). So don’t overburden everyone all the time, but know which relationships merit more attention, and then pay attention to them – while not disregarding the other relationships!
  • Follow-up on leads or items of interest that you come upon. For example, if you know one of your contacts has a keen interest in fly-fishing, send him an article from a magazine (yep, cut it out and mail it to him) with a personal note (a small one). If a different contact is thinking about a sabbatical, send her some information that you find as well as a note of encouragement. In other words, think about these people and send them things that would be interesting to them.

Keep business relationships

  • Be genuine and interested in them. No one likes a person that is obviously self-serving.
  • Be of value to people in your network. Connect them, when appropriate, with others. Give them business leads (without keeping score!). Let them know, by your actions, that you are someone important in their network, because they know they are important in your network.
  • Develop a relationship that goes beyond superficial. Develop important, personal friendships that last longer than a job title or company position might.

Turn them (the business relationships) into real business

  • Let your contacts know what your capacity is, what your company does, and that you are interested in helping them where it makes sense. You can help them as a vendor or as a customer – but they need to know about it and you.
  • Be honest with them, and if there is a better solution for them then let them know. If you work to make them look good, even if you don’t get the business now, they will always remember that.
  • Do the above things to grow and keep the relationships, and when the time is right, business just might follow.
  • If it doesn’t turn into business, even though you think it should, get over it. Remember that the long-term value of the relationship is likely more valuable to you and your career than this deal. Don’t hold the grudge.

As promised, here’s my one summarized TIP: Be genuine, have a strategy, but JUST START! I think too many people try and figure out all the ins-and-outs, or get analysis-paralysis, and never get anywhere. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call or e-mail inviting the other person to lunch, and ta-da! You have begun!

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Why being unemployed rocks

September 29th, 2006

ok, so maybe it *doesn’t* rock. But there are benefits, which I was reminded of yesterday. If your work environment is as bad (or stressful) as this (mine wasn’t this bad), step back and take a breather… and read on 😉

I took a relative to the airport and waited with her at the gate. So I got to sit in an airport for over an hour, walk the halls a little, see all the same ol’ restaurants, and a flood of memories came back (I’ve spent a lot of time in airports in the last few years). While I thoroughly enjoyed what I did, here are some things I like about not having that job anymore:

1. No more commute. I hate commuting. When I was in high school I would commute with my dad (or his buddies) into Washington D.C., which was at least a 45 minute drive from where we lived. The last couple of years here in the Salt Lake area I’ve had a 35 minute commute. Spent a fair amount on gas and set my car up for maintenance… not a huge deal, and I know lots of people have worse commutes, but I’ve hated commuting ever since I was a Junior in high school!

2. No commuting *in the snow*. The only thing I hate worse than commuting is commuting in the winter, when the roads are icy, the sun is down and there are a few crazies that speed through like it was a nice summer day. I do not, will not miss that!

3. No airport time. I haven’t been in an airport since last year (so, over 9 months)! I didn’t realize how much I disliked it, but just spending time there yesterday reminded me… the layovers, the delayed planes, worrying about devious shoes or fraudulent water bottles (j/k, I’m not one to worry down to that level)…

4. No hotel time. I like the quiet time in a hotel to get some work done and be able to concentrate, but I didn’t begin to raise a family so I could spend most of my time in a hotel. There was a point were I was gone for 5 weeks in a row with a one day “visit” home per week. By the 4th week I was ready to look for another job – it was just too much travelling, and I was missing out on my family’s experiences.

5. Newfound time to reflect on my life. When I was working I was so busy doing… everything I did (I was the General Manager of a software company) that I had no time or mental energy to think about who I was and where I was going. Sure I thought I knew where the company was going, and I was enjoying the ride, but the truth was that I was neglecting a lot of personal growth and needs during that time. Since I *left employment* I’ve been able to think… about me! And my family, and my future. It was nice to have time and mental energy to reflect on the important things.

6. Time to actually develop relationships outside of my old “circle.” It took me about 6 weeks to go to my first networking event, and once I went I was quite shy and left early (ya, I left before the networking even happened!). And I left early the next two times. But now that I didn’t have a job I had time to meet new people. And I’ve been to many events to expand my network. This includes formal networking events (my least favorite was a professional job fair) and informal lunches, and everything inbetween. I have developed relationships with people that I never would have been able to meet while I was at my last job. And developing your network with various circles (like, the techie circle, the salespeople circle, the academic circle, etc.) is super valuable.

7. Quality (and quantity) time with the family. I’ve been able to get to know my kids better, and develop better relationships with them, because I’m more accessible. And they’ve grown to trust me more since I’m home more – I’ve become more familiar to them. Sad truth, there are too many parents that don’t have a good relationship with their kids just because the time isn’t there. It has been a lot of fun strengthening my relationship with my kids.

Maybe this post is a little too PollyAna for you but it is true stuff. Looking frantically for a job while you see your savings erode and there is no income is scary – very scary. But there is a bright side, and this might be the only time to take advantage of it.

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the YOUNGEST JibberJobber user

September 28th, 2006

Its all about relationships, right? Let me share with you two different, non-job-search ways that two different people are using JibberJobber to manage, keep track of and enhance their relationships. Hopefully by sharing this I help you get out of “argh! Help me get a job right now” mode and into “I see the value of managing all relationships forever” mode :)

As promised in yesterday’s post, today I’ll tell you a little about my 8-year old Samantha. She loves to play with friends (of course) and every day asks who she can play with. She has about 10 or 15 friends that she can call, but the problem is she usually doesn’t know where the phone numbers are. Putting her friend’s information into JibberJobber solves a few issues:

  1. We always know where the phone numbers are, and she can access them from either computer in our house. Phone numbers are always at her fingertips,
  2. If I need to take her to a friends house, I can click on “Show on Map” and get directions from my house to her friend’s, and
  3. She can print out her list, with addresses, and have a hard copy to keep somewhere (we have so far had very reliable internet access, but who knows!).

I know this is a simple example of how to use JibberJobber but it works. It isn’t related to her job search, but definitely related to her relationship management. I can’t tell you how many times she has asked me for so-and-so’s phone number! Now she can look it up herself, or I can pull it up for her (since I’m usually online).

Can she accomplish the same thing elsewhere? Sure. She uses Outlook Express for her e-mail. But if she is away from that computer, or someone else is on it, she can’t get to those numbers. And if we are out of town visiting friends or family, they are completely inaccessible. Get it?

Fast forward a few decades, my buddy Steve had the same issue where he was on a 10-day trip to California and needed some information … luckily it was in his JibberJobber account and he was able to access it!

Okay, one more non-job search example. As I go through some piles we have around our house I find little scraps of paper (sound familiar?) or envelopes with people’s addresses or other contact information. A lot of these are friend’s of my wife. So, I just go add a new network contact in her account, and make sure to tag it as “Christmas“.


Because then she’ll be able to go to the “Get Contact List” and export those names and addresses for Christmas cards based on the “tags” (coming soon). Sound insignificant or trivial?

Well, she can export this list to a csv file, which can then be used to print labels with ease! Imagine, just a few steps each year and you have your Christmas card labels ready to go, that quick. By the way, networking experts recommend sending some kind of annual mailing to people in your network, it could be birthday cards, Christmas, or some other holiday.

Everyone networks… me, my 8 year old, my wife, and you. JibberJobber is a tool that helps you out. Like I said, I’m sure there are other tools to do this type of stuff, I’ve just wrapped it up into something that seems to make sense for the average joe job seeker (none of those other tools have a place to put in multipe “me in 30 seconds”), and am figuring out new things to do all the time to help you enhance intimate relationships!

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Shhh! Be Quiet!!

September 27th, 2006

I have 4 kids, the youngest is an infant and the oldest will be 9 on Halloween (more about her tomorrow). And we like to play games – hide-and-go-seek is the favorite (with sardines and candle tag close behind). Usually when I go hide my 2 1/2 year old wants to tag along with me, I guess because I’m such a great hider. Or perhaps because she doesn’t want to hide for a long time all alone.

I like hiding with her, but after a few minutes she gets a little silly and starts making noises. And these noises are usually what brings the person looking for us right to us. Or it could be all the “SHHHH!” whispering that I do trying to get her to quiet down. Nonetheless, her little noises bring the game to an end pretty quick.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with a job search? Or, with networking? Actually, a lot! Here’s another little story.

Many years ago I was an IT Manager looking for some programming interns. I had a budget to hire 3, which made the interviewing a little easier. There was one in particular that was just incredible. He dressed and spoke like a CEO, but had a great tech background. We were all so impressed with him that he was at the top of the list. And he accepted the job (its a funny story about the other two, maybe I’ll blog on that some day) … we were thrilled because he was perfect!

Well, until he started working. He was a good worker, and very talented, but when he wasn’t working he was … chatting. He chatted with everyone – the other team members, the ladies in accounting, even the CFO. He chatted on the clock and off the clock. He came in my office one day and ate 1/2 of my M&Ms (I guess he didn’t have breakfast) and he chatted with me (part of which was to the back of my head while I just said things like “oh”). He was a fun guy, and quite interesting, but he didn’t know when to stop chatting – and it was really affecting the entire office.

As the semester neared completion I had to make a decision on which of the three guys to offer a full-time job to. Guess what? It wasn’t this CEO-guy. He had talked his way out of the job, post interview. I’m not sure what we talked about in the exit interview, and if I were a better boss I would have laid it on the table for him. I doubt I did – I was pretty young. But the simple fact is, he lost the game because he couldn’t be quiet when he should have been.

Now, I’m not saying that you should always be quiet. Here are some of my personal suggestions for this wierd art of communication, especially as you are developing a relationship with people:

  1. RESPECT other people’s time. Don’t push your way into their schedule and disrupt their plans. If they like you they’ll ask you to come back, or move the schedule on their own. But if you ask for 5 minutes, don’t take more. The best way to transition out of that is, with a few seconds left to go, say: “You know, my time is up, I really appreciate your time and wonder if we could get together again to finish up. How about lunch tomorrow?” (and of course, this means you buy because you brought it up ;))
  2. Have substance. It is okay to share trivial stuff that you may think is boring. Most people will take interest in your personal life, especially as you develop an intimate relationship with them. But you can’t always talk about trivial stuff. You need to bring value to the conversation. You need to have substance. Become a subject matter expert (SME) in your own domain. I’m not saying become a know-it-all! I’m saying, know what experts say, and what observers think (I’m sure you can find a few blogs to see what people think). The point is, when you have something significant to add to the conversation you bring more value to the relationship.
  3. Respect other people’s perspectives. Communicating isn’t a contest to see who is smarter, or more whitty. It is about being in a conversation and building a relationship. If they start to talk about something that does not interest you, get interested right away! Nothing is worse than talking to someone about something when the glaze over. While you might not be interested in the history of Native American indians, or the state of drunk driving in our country, or something else that you really haven’t given much thought to, this is prime time to learn about the person you are taliking with, where they come from and what their interests are.
  4. Be gracious. No one likes talking with a sourpuss, or a grump. Once the conversation is over they probably aren’t going to be anxious to get back with you again. I’m not saying be fake, or overly excited, but be nice and pleasant.
  5. Shhh! Shhhhh! Don’t take over the entire conversation. This is especially critical when (a) you first meet the person, or (b) they are not shy (read: they want to talk also!). Just like my little girl, and that guy that I didn’t hire full-time, you may lose the game by not knowing when to be quiet. You may have heard that thing about “you have 2 ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.”

This obviously applies in a new meeting environment (at a networking meeting, or when a friend introduces you, etc.), in an interview, and in casual every day living.

I know this may seem like common sense. But too many people talk themselves out of a relationship. You can ask a buddy if you are like this but I doubt you’ll get a good honest response (depending on how good the buddy is). A great book to pick up on this is “how to win friends and influence people”… that book just doesn’t get old!

Finally, I hope that folks that know me aren’t shaking their heads thinking “hello, practice what you preach!”

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How To: Use Coaching Interface

September 26th, 2006

The worst part about being the designer of JibberJobber is that I am asked how to do things that I think are simple… but they are simple to me because I spend hours each day living in JibberJobber. Here’s the latest:

How do I set myself up as a coach? I’ll answer this from start to finish… note that coaching is Beta and there are some cool enhancements planned, so if you have any ideas or suggestions please let me know asap!

And, you have to be logged in to do this stuff … 😉

First, click on the My Account link on the main menu.

click on

Second, you’ll see a “Coach” tab… click on that.

click on the

Third, you will see a checkbox that says “I am a Coach.” Just click in the checkbox (so it is checked), and then hit the “Save” button.

check that you are a coach... and save!

That’s it! You are a coach! But let’s make this a little more useful, and explore a little.

If you mouse-over the Tools link on the menu, you’ll see the option “My Coach Landing Page” … click on that.

See the bottom link?

It should have a bunch of “panels” with a message like this:

you have no connections!

So now what you need to do is have the person you are coaching set you up as their coach. The best way to do that is over the phone or in person, have them login, and mouse-over Tools, and then click on the My Coaches link.

click on My Coaches

This brings up a page that will likely say they don’t have any coaches. Have them click on the “Add a Coach” link. Then, tell them your username in JibberJobber, and when they hit the “Add Coach(es)” button you will immediately see them in YOUR coach landing page!

just have them add your username

Pretty nifty, eh? A few things to note:

You can have as many coachees as you want. In other words, if you want to “coach” your brother-in-law in his job search, and then his friend, and then their other friend, just have all three of them add you as their coach.

You can also have as many coaches as necessary! It doesn’t make a ton of sense to have many different coaches but if you want, you can have more than one.

I realize there are real, professional job coaches out there that do this kind of thing for a living. I would like each of them to use JibberJobber, of course. But I know there are plenty of folks (like me) who can’t afford a job coach. I maintain that a coach needs to (1) teach by true principles, (2) have a process, and (3) have a set of tools. JibberJobber is a great tool to help in a coaching relationship, but if you get a yahoo who doesn’t know current job search (and networking) principles or have a real process then you don’t have a real coach.

If you have a suggestion on who a good coach would be, shoot it my way as one of these days I plan to blog on my favorite coaches :)

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Of Professionals and Job Seekers

September 26th, 2006

A few months ago I blogged about regaining your professional identity when you are unemployed. It was based on a presentation I saw (and have since seen it again) from a career coach. I was reminded of this post because yesterday I moved my “office” from my bedroom to a spare room in the basement. My new office has pictures of my family and other stuff that I had in my previous offices, and it feels so much more professional!

Anyway, the ideas in that coach’s presentation are simple:

– Professionals and Job Seekers view things differently
– Professionals and Job Seekers act differently
– Professionals and Job seekers prepare differently
– Professionals and Job Seekers are perceived differently

The message of the coach was basically this: Shed the Job Seeker image and get back your professional image. Instead of wimpily handing someone a resume which says “I need a job,” hand them a business card which says “I can bring value to you, and you should get to know me.”

Instead of walking into a job interview having studied the job description, realize that a job description may not have hit the nail on the head (after all, it was probably written by someone in HR that doesn’t know anything about the job, and the hiring manager may have other needs/wants). A professional will walk into that interview (especially if he really wants the job) having done great research on the person, the department, the company, and everyone’s sweet spots. And he will speak to those sweet spots! How is this done?

Professionals don’t find the sweet spots between the lines in the job description, they do research on-line and use their network to find out as much as they can. Would you, as a professional, ever make a presentation without knowing your facts? The more critical the meeting is, the more prepared you are. So don’t go into a job interview without real preparation!

In a networking environment a job seeker says “Hi, I’m Jason, I hear you have some job openings at XYZ Company.” A professional says anything but that, rather talking about the person they are talking with and trying to develop a relationship. And if appropriate, sharing some of their strengths or reasons why they would bring value to that person’s company or department (you see, it would help to know what the company or department’s needs are, right?).

And so, to wrap it up, where do you sit to do your job search (when you are not out networking)? Are you in a make-shift office that doesn’t even allow you to be a professional? Maybe you can carve out a little private space where you can enforce and regain your identity – not as a job seeker, but as a professional.

And while you are at it, work on developing your long-term personal branding strategy 😉

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eensie weensie confession

September 25th, 2006

Never Eat Alone!So, I have a confession. A shameful confession with some good news at the end. Let me go back a few months, to when JibberJobber was first being designed.

Earlier this year I was talking with a buddy of mine about the networking aspect of JibberJobber. The idea that networking is more than keeping names and phone numbers, etc. etc. etc. He mentioned this awesome book to me, “Never Eat Alone,” and talked about how they have some great ideas (which we talked about). Well, I incorporated the ideas as best I understood, based on his description. And then, as I talked with people about JibberJobber I said that part of the networking was based on ideas from networking experts. But… I had NEVER read the book! As a matter of fact…

I just finished “Never Eat Alone”… ! (ya, just 4 months after I released the website, I finally read the book that partly inspired it)

And I’d like to share some thoughts from it. I went online a few months ago and searched for other bloggers who have blogged on it. I didn’t find much. There was one guy that said that halfway through he threw it across the room in disgust. I found another that said “that is fine for (Keith) Ferrazzi but I’m too introverted.” Well, I couldn’t judge until I read the entire book.

I went into the book thinking it was a book on networking (and, wondering how in the world you could write over 200 pages on how to network). Not even halfway through I realized that this book had a much bigger message than “go network and here’s how.” Duh – I should have looked at the sub-title a little closer: “and other secrets to success, one relationship at a time.” That made more sense, this is more a book on personal “success” than it is on how to network.

I appreciated Keith’s personal experiences that he shared. He has had an amazing career, and has had a lot of success along the way. But he shares a lot of what he did wrong also. It is a very candid assessment, and I felt that it was a coach or mentor (or best friend) trying to share with me what I need to do in my career to be successful. I understand why some people would think this book is not for them… I probably would have thought the same way before I lost my job. But I see the world in a new way now, and I just soaked up this book.

Check out some of these chapter titles:

2. Don’t Keep Score

4. Build It Before You Need It (ya, my next book is Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty)

6. The Networking Jerk

9. Warming the Cold Call (has a great message!)

14. Follow Up or Fail

17. The Art of Small Talk (very personal, again a great message!)

23. Build Your Brand (hah, this obviously was a personal favorite of mine. But I was disappointed to realize that I didn’t invent the concept :( … or maybe she invented it?)

29. Find Mentors, Find Mentees, Repeat

I thought I could take the chapter titles and pretty much figure out what this is about, but one thing that drove me to get this book was to find the parts that encouraged some of the functionality of JibberJobber. But I was hooked from page one. Of course it helped that a lot of his messages were directly in-line with where I’m at right now.

If you don’t read any other book this year, you must get this book (my library system has 3, waiting to be checked out). I know there are other networking books, which I’ll check out, but here’s my suggestion: GET ONE AND READ IT! I think there are too many misconceptions about what networking is, how to network, and when to start, and most people need this paradigm shift.

I’m still amazed at the newly laid-off people that I meet that say “I don’t know anyone”… you need to begin to build your network right now! And reading a good book like this will help you get in the right frame of mind, and learn some good techniques along the way.



And the winner is…..

September 22nd, 2006

I got a cool e-mail from Dave in Oregon last night. He originally had some questions on “how to…” (I know, I’m grossly deficient there, and Dave is even a computer genius!). This was our second exchange and we had diverted into other stuff – personal branding. I was really impressed with what Dave is doing, and I thought about it a while – and I had an idea. I talked it over with my board of directors (well… I’m the only one on the board) and decided to reward users that are really creating their own brand!

So Dave, you are the first (monthly, if I remember) winner of JibberJobber’s “I Get It” award. The prize is a cyber-high-five, a link on my blog (see on the left?) and 3 additional months of premium access – for free!

Here’s why I think what Dave is doing is so cool:

First, he has his own website that is based on his personal brand – This is right in line with what others are talking about, such as the guerrilla job marketer here and Justin (who has a book ;)).

Second, he has a long-term strategy. This is not a site for one job hunt, this is a long-term personal branding strategy. You’ll have to read for yourself (I’m bolding parts for emphasis):

Feel free to use my site as an example of personal branding. The site isn’t much right now. I’m at the beginning of my job search. My plan is to use my website to sell myself in ways that no resume can. There are so many things that a website is capable of that it is a waste to simply use it to display your resume (as I am doing now). I plan to add quite a bit assuming I don’t get distracted (by being hired). Like you mentioned, I plan to start a blog. I also want to add applications (yet to be developed) to demonstrate my abilities, testimonials from previous employers, various articles about my attitudes about development, exit surveys that solicit advice from employers (eg. “What skills would make me a more attractive candidate?), links to sites/articles/projects that interest me, etc. etc. etc. This kind of website would provide employers with a fuller picture of who I am. There isn’t much on the site right now, because I just wanted to put something up quickly so that I can start applying for jobs. Once I get my resume finalized, I plan to slowly add content. Once I’m hired, I plan to keep it and update it as my career progresses. If I ever need to find a new job, getting ready for the next job hunt won’t be as difficult.

Is that cool or what? You can’t tell me he doesn’t get it!

I just happen to know that Dave has started a blog, I read the first two posts, and they are GREAT. They directly support his brand and expertise, and one thing I like is that in just the first two posts he shows a great deal of breadth and depth. Blog + website? See what CM Russell has to say about that here. But I like how Dave is adding MORE to substantiate who he is and what he brings to the table… and the idea that this is building his personal brand.

Congratulations Dave. I look forward to seeing this site evolve!

(yes, that is a golf trophy… I’m looking for a better image ;))



Server Issues

September 22nd, 2006

We had quite a day today… it started when I tried to login to JibberJobber this morning at 7am and it didn’t work. I tried 3 other logins and nothing worked. Then I went to the blog page and it had an error. Argh! Let me back up a little.

JibberJobber went live on May 15th, and since then we’ve been with GoDaddy. There have been a few little glitches here and there but I was able to live with it. About two weeks ago we were having a problem (that I couldn’t live with) and so I told my dev team to prepare to move the site to a new server environment. This new server environment is one that you move to if you are serious about heavy traffic, lots of users, high reliability, etc. I honestly thought that we wouldn’t make this move until after Christmas, but since my team had been working on it and the server was totally choking, we decided to move this morning!

So, how lucky are we that we had been preparing for this fateful day. No data has been lost, and we still have access to the old server. We’ve been testing all day but if you come across anything wierd then let us know – we’ll jump on it right away.

Now that we got this server move out of the way we are free to do some more great development. And boy, do we have some great stuff we’re working on!

Sorry if this was an inconvenience to anyone – hopefully we’re on a great long-term solution that we can grow with.

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Transparency Time: My Finances

September 21st, 2006

You wonder how transparent to be on a blog (I highly respect some of these transparent bloggers (Matt, Phil and Janet), especially since they don’t tell me what they ate for breakfast but put other things right there on the table), but I just couldn’t let go of this post. This is possibly one of the most difficult parts of unemployment, especially if the unemployment lasts for a while. So here is some very personal information from a guy that usually doesn’t go there 😉

I have received counsel to have at least three months of income saved in case of “an emergency.” But, like most Americans, I didn’t have that. I had a little over $1,000 in the bank when I got laid off.

Losing my job wasn’t a huge surprise – I wasn’t totally blind-sided. As a matter of fact, a few weeks before the phone call in which I was told it was final I had told one of the owners “if you make me do [that thing] then I’m quitting.” It wasn’t an unethical thing but I thought it was a really really dumb decision, and since I was the General Manager I figured I should make the decisions, not a board that didn’t even know what our products were about. But even with this foresight I still hadn’t been tucking money under the mattress.

So I was told on Monday that I’d work one more week to help transition the new CEO in. It was a weird week, to say the least. I knew that I’d have a little bit of severence to help tide things over (enough to replace 6 weeks of salary), and I had my $1,000 in the bank.

Until Saturday. That’s when I decided to take my Toyota into the shop to see why the oil light flickered (it was rare, but every once in a while it flickered, and I thought something was wrong with the control system or something). Well, $450 later I rolled my Toyota out of the mechanic (it was actually the dealership) thinking – wow, that $ went fast! It is a long story (the mechanic offered to buy my car for $800) and scary, and it made me think about the last time I had maintenance on my other car. Yep, you guessed it, that was another $450. So my $1,000 savings went to $100 within 5 days. So much for having grocery money.

My wife and I called our parents to let them know what was happening. We didn’t approach them with a hand out, as we figured that we’d have a job within a few weeks (two months at the latest). But they were very quick to offer to help with our bills until we could get back on our feet. It was a real blessing to have parents who (a) were in a position financially to really help, and (b) willing to share. My dad had gone through a tough time right out of law school back in the 70’s and was very supportive. One thing that he told me that surprised me was “I will expect you to be out of work for at least six months.” I didn’t expect to be out for 6 months! But he had a different perspective of what it takes to get a job. And my father-in-law mentioned something that I hadn’t heard before which was “it takes one month for every $10k that you need to make.” So there you go, it would be at least six months! Darn!

So they both chipped in to pay for mortgage and car payment (one car was paid off already). Their concern was that they didn’t want me to lose the house or a car, and it sure was nice to get help “unconditionally” and with the idea that I wouldn’t have a job as soon as I thought I would.

My wife actually picked up her first piano student the day I got laid off, which was a nice coincidence. By the end of the month she had 19 students. She only has 10 now (9 months later) but has consistently brought in over $300 a month from that, which paid all of the utility and other bills.

Food was the other concern, and we got help in various ways. I went to my church leader just to tell him what was going on (and it was my intro to networking, as church leaders know lots of people and want to be helpful, and maybe could have gave me ideas or hooked me up with someone). We went over our monthly expenses so that he could be sure that we’d be okay. Even though we seemed to have enough for bills and food, he offered to take care of our food for a while, so that if an emergency came up we would have the cash to handle it. This again was quite a blessing as we didn’t have to see our cash dwindle immediately just to survive.

Unemployment didn’t kick in until my severence ran out. Even though I got it as a lump-sum, the state government determined that it was enough to last through February, so my first UI check was in March. That was about $333 per week (you have to apply weekly, and if you don’t meet the requirements then you don’t get the money that week). That was a far cry from what my income used to be, but when your broke, it is great. Not enough to live on but enough to help you through. That lasted, I think, for six months. By then the state expects you to have a job… if not, then figure something else out. Here’s a note on unemployment: if you have or have had a personal business this may impede you from getting UI – as they think that you are already self-sufficient. I encourage you to have a business on the side but you need to understand what this might mean as far as getting that extra $333 per week (which ironically is taxable!).

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the generosity of neighbors and those in my congregation. We were showered with “charity,” whether it was cash, gift cards for the local grocery store, clothes, or boxes of food. This really was one of the most amazing things to watch as people came “out of the woodwork” and shared with us. Many of these people had their own unemployment experiences and shared with us those dark times. Some people “donated” anonymously and others did so in person. One family in particular had been out of work for about a year (a while back). The wife remembered how frustrating it had been to want to cook bread (pizza crust, etc.) and they didnt’ have enough money for yeast. So, when we were at their house one night she gave us 4 pounds of yeast! Remember, this is such an emotional time that you remember the weirdest things.

One of the greater gifts that we got was from a local woodworker in our neighborhood. He takes his company (mostly family) to a local theme park and the invited us to go with them. They actually paid for our entrance, parking, and gave us some food money. Note that this made us feel really uncomfortable, as we would never expect this kind of generosity from anyone. And, when you are “looking for a job” you feel that if you go have fun you are doing something wrong, because you should be looking for that job!! But we went and had a great time – it was a great stress relief and helped us understand that there is more to this stage in our life than just being down about not having an income. In my job search I didn’t allow myself to have fun as I had an important job to do!

So, there you go. That’s how we “survived.” It was a very humbling experience, but we had lots of allies in our corner helping us. The expectations were realistic (we didn’t get any “we’ll help you for 30 days, but then you better…”). As I mentioned before, this was very difficult. We are proud people, and have been proud that for our entire marriage we never really went to our parents (or anyone else) for help. If we got help we paid it back immediately. But this time was different. We had to look at reality and accept the gifts and help – and that was not easy. One thing that I took away from this experience is the deep desire to help other people (that’s one reason why most of JibberJobber is free) during times like this, and to not judge them as to why they “don’t take the job at Pizza Hut” or take longer than I think they should take to find a job.

So, what’s your story? If you lose your job today, what’s your plan? How are you going to make ends meet? I wouldn’t counsel anyone to bank on the kind of generosity that we saw, because you can’t count on it. Do you have a savings? Do you have family that can and will help you for as long as it takes? How long can you last, assuming your job search doesn’t end soon?

Not stuff anyone wants to think about, but definitely something that everyone needs to think about. May your job search be shorter than mine was.

By the way, here’s my deal now. JibberJobber is fully funded, and I’ve actually changed my status from UNemployed to SELFemployed. I’m not looking for a job right now, and am working JibberJobber LLC full-time. All assistance has ended (we told our church leader that we are going to do it on our own, and the state cut it off after six months), except help from parents, but they see this as a business investment, not a supplement during unemployment.


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