A recent e-mail from my oldest friend, a college professor, stimulated me to reflect on how we search and find work, as well as in small business how we promote and sell ourselves. On this subject, I’ve observed my teen son’s failed efforts to find a summer job. And, finally, I’ve thought about my own recent efforts in designing and launching my own website (www.brucesallan.com). For me, throughout my life, there was only one thing that worked and it was persistence. I believe, especially in our present economic times, persistence is the primary thing that works.
My old friend the professor had a whole list of very sharp suggestions on how I could better brand (contemporary slang for identifying yourself or your company, as with Nike’s swoosh) my site, my work, and myself. They ranged from hiring a consultant to doing informational interviewing, as well as developing an “elevator speech” (means exactly what you’d expect—a short enough description of your work that could be told in an elevator ride), and much more. As I read and digested his suggestions, I was struck by the fact that my initial reaction was “this is just too much work” and “I like my style better.”
And, what is my style? It’s in-your-face persistence. It’s not taking “No” for an answer and not letting my ego get in the way of following up, repeatedly, on warm leads, to quote my wife’s real estate term for someone who seems interested, but hasn’t committed. This is what I tried to teach my teen son, who just made a lazy and hardly serious effort to find a job when, in these times, he’s literally competing with adults who are looking for minimum wage filler jobs.
He understands very well that he won’t be allowed to drive, since he’s turning sixteen in the fall, unless he meets a couple of conditions. First, he must maintain a “B” average, as insurance rates for teen boys with less than a “B” average are significantly higher. Second, he must contribute to the cost of his driving by earning money–whether in the form of a part-time job, or an entrepreneurial effort. I’ve hoped that some of my recent success in starting a second career would inspire him, along with my frequent lectures on making more of an effort. But, we know how teens tune us out and he’s had the mute switch turned on for quite some time.
The part I truly don’t understand is that Will, like most American teen boys before him, especially in Southern California, can’t wait to drive and gain the independence it brings. He also fantasizes about getting his own car, knowing we won’t be giving him a designer BMW on his birthday like too many parents do in our somewhat upscale area. He knows that he has to have the grades and has to have the income to even have the privilege, and I emphasize that word, to borrow one of our cars. But, his efforts on both counts lack the persistence that I’m advocating.
I don’t want to immodestly praise my own recent efforts, but they are good examples of exactly how it works and what I mean when I say that persistence works. I decided to become a writer, a columnist concerning parenting and male/female issues, at a time when the newspaper business is struggling on a scale that competes with our major car companies’ struggles, as well as a time when Internet magazines and papers haven’t fully figured out a profitable model.
In spite of these obstacles, I’ve been fortunate enough to secure a large number of papers and websites to carry my work. It took thousands of e-mail promotional messages and many hundreds of follow-ups to the “warm” respondents (those that expressed some interest but hadn’t committed) to get here. I’m proud that in a relatively short time, I have a large national presence and a growing international one (I am carried on sites in the U.K., Canada, and India, with one in Australia beginning in the fall).
If I allowed my impatience, ego, or pride to intrude, I’d be back at square one, staring at my computer screen and wishing for results. My son quit at round one, with a few applications at a few places, eliminating those jobs he didn’t like by not applying, and not aggressively following up on most, if not all of those where he did apply. As a result, he doesn’t have a job nor has he figured a way to do odd jobs or other income producing tasks in our neighborhood.
He won’t be driving when he turns sixteen and that lesson is essential regardless of how bad it makes him feel. As his parents, we must not give in to his hurt feelings or feel bad when other of his friends are given more license, so to speak. I can’t motivate him beyond what I’ve already offered and that is the part of being his dad that is so frustrating, since I so want him to benefit from my failures and successes, but I also know he’s got to learn himself and that these harsher lessons will teach him much better than any of my lectures.
But, I will continue to be persistent in my message to him, continue to try and teach him even when I see the mute button is on, and hope that everyone might learn from my assertion that it’s persistence that works best in finding a job, completing a task, or even pursuing a romantic partner.