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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Big OOPS and Apology

Direct mail can be a powerful marketing tool, depending on your objectives. In a former career I remember reading that direct mail is 40-40-20: 40% creative (design); 40% list; and 20% message (offer). I could be wrong on the percentages but you get the idea. And speaking of, did you know that 67.3% of percentages* are made up?

But I digress.

So direct mail. Necessary? Maybe. Opened and read? Probably not. In fact, did you know that a 5% response to direct mail is considered effective -- and successful -- in some circles? Turn this around and consider that the whole direct mail industry is based on a 95% fail rate. (I heard this explained at an American Marketing Association conference this fall so I must give them credit.)

And I've digressed again.

Here's the real story:

A few weeks ago, I received a mailing at home from the National Jewish Health organization. It contained "holiday" labels with my name. The labels I could were clearly Christmas wreaths. I found this mildly amusing and showed my husband and several coworkers. Now I'm all about supporting all religions. I've always been fascinated by the Jewish religion and took a class on it in college. Before I married my husband, however, we both joined a Catholic church. My personal feeling is that we are all calling God. But we might be using different phones. And that's okay. I personally don't think it's up to me to judge a person based on a religious preference or no preference.

I give to charitable organizations from time-to-time, and one of my personal favorites is the American Cancer Society. My mom passed from cancer several years back and giving to this organization is my way of paying tribute to my mom. My guess is that the American Cancer Society sold my address to the National Jewish Health organization. I'm not a fan of this process, but I know it happens.

So there I was, amused by the fact that a Jewish health organization took a BIG chance and sent out a holiday label mailing - with Christmas labels no less! I showed these to my Jewish coworker and asked if she was offended (no, she was not) but she shared that she imagined some others might be.

I still haven't opened my pack of labels because I think it is way too amusing and it tells a great story. And no, I did not donate to the National Jewish Health organization. Not because I was offended, but because I've chosen to allocate my charitable donations to other causes. There are many worthy organizations out there and those who choose to give pick and choose where their dollars go.

So anyway, in today's mail I received an apology letter from the company who handled the mailing for the National Jewish Health organization. The letter itself is honest, but amusing to me as a marketer. Here's an excerpt:

"Recently, an error occurred in which address labels with potentially offensive holiday images were included in a fundraising mailing from National Jewish Health...We were responsible, and we are sorry."

"Jewish philanthropy is, and has always been, the foundation of funding for National Jewish Health. At the same time, the size and scope of the essential, lifesaving work they do make it necessary for them to also look outside the Jewish community to find other generous supporters. That's why Merkle produced two sets of address labels: one with traditional Jewish holiday imagery, and a second with non-Jewish images like Christmas ornaments and wreaths. A mix-up at the mailhouse resulted in some potential donors receiving the wrong set of labels."

There's more to the letter but this is the essence of it. They apologize profusely if anyone was offended and take complete ownership of the mailing glitch. The mailing also includes a second letter from the National Jewish Health organization's President and CEO, Dr. Michael Salem, who also apologizes profusely. He mentions that he heard from several people that they were disappointed or offended in the mailing and hopes this does not reflect upon their support of his organization.

Egad. His would be a tough job to have when that mailing hit. What would you do?

No, I was not at all offended but I sure want to open my Christmas ornaments to see what could have offended some people.

Yes, mistakes happen. Yes, this was a big risk for the organization to reach beyond the Jewish community for fundraising efforts. At the time I received the labels, I made the comment to my husband that some Christians may have been offended to receive a mailing from a Jewish organization and they definitely wouldn't donate. No, I was not offended but the mailing wasn't effective in getting me to donate. I'm in the 95% mentioned earlier. :)

So what's the moral of the story? I'm not sure. But I know that taking ownership for an error is a noble thing to do, and sometimes a difficult thing to do.

Oh, and now I know a bit more about the National Jewish Health organization and its fundraising efforts, so maybe I'm actually in the 5% category instead.

So - what's the best or worst mailing you've ever received, and why? I'd love to hear from you.

*Yes, I made this up, too. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Top 10 Tips to Supercharge YOU on LinkedIn

One of the best things about using LinkedIn is the power to share information and insights throughout your network, but you can only do this effectively if you are using LinkedIn effectively. To that end, here are my top 10 suggestions to help supercharge YOU and your efforts on LinkedIn.

Please share this with a worker-in-transition (you could help someone), a hiring manager (they could help the former), a friend, a coworker, or anyone you feel might benefit.

1. Whenever you are at a networking event, make sure you ask people these magical four words: Are You on LinkedIn?

You will get two answers to this question
1) yes - and your response should be -- "Let's connect!"
2) no.... what's LinkedIn? (or some variation) Use this a conversation starter to talk about how you're using LinkedIn. My guess is that it takes 5 or 6 conversations before someone joins LinkedIn, but this is just a guess.

Either way, the more people you can connect with on LinkedIn, the more powerful your network. Being active on LinkedIn gives me access to so many great people that I would probably not stay in touch with, if it were not for LinkedIn. I help my network, and they help me. That's Social Media karma!

2. Simplify your LinkedIn URL.
When you first sign up for LinkedIn, they will automatically assign you with a page address that is some variation of your name and an alpha-numeric code.

Change it. Immediately. I'll wait here...

I suggest simplifying it to your first name.last name. Ex: (note: you only change the code after "/in/").

This makes it MUCH easier for people to find your LinkedIn page. Trust me. You don't want to frustrate that HR manager who is trying to look up your LinkedIn page.

3. Use a Profile Photo.
The use of a photograph helps to personalize your LinkedIn page. If I can't place you based on looking at your profile, your photo helps to jog my memory. Plus, it helps me to build a stronger connection to you if I can see who you are. If you don't use a photo on your profile, you seem mysterious and secretive to me...

4. Use a Pleasant, Professional Photo
Have a friend take a head and shoulder picture of you against a white or light colored wall. You should be wearing professional attire. The background should not be cluttered. The focus should be on you. And you should be smiling pleasantly. Makes me happy to see you happy!

5. Personalize Every Invitation You Send. Yes, EVERY invitation.
LinkedIn offers a lovely standard invitation that shows me and everyone you connect with that you do not care. Take a moment or two to personalize your response and you'll see your connection acceptance rates increase. Example: "Hi Joe, it's Brenda from Walsh College. We met at the ABC Conference on Monday night. It was great hearing more about your company, and I'd like to connect on LinkedIn. Let's stay in touch!" (yes, it's that simple.)

6. Send Your Connections a Thank You Message When They Invite You to Connect.
I think of every invitation to connect as a gift sent to me. Because after all, a connection can open many doors for you. So accepting this "gift" without saying thank you just doesn't seem proper to me. Example: Hi Chris, thanks for connecting on LinkedIn. It was great meeting you at the workshop tonight and I'm glad to hear you're thinking about writing a book. Keep me posted!"

If you take this simple step, your connections will feel appreciated. Which brings me to #7:

7. Create Good Social Media Karma
I used to work for a call center company and one important step in every customer service call was to end with a "Bridge to the Future." This "bridge" was in the form of offering contact information for the company, and inviting the caller to call anytime with questions. I try to create this "bridge" in all message interactions. In the above example, I asked Chris to keep me posted on his book, showing him my interest in his new aspiration. Also makes him feel good about our interaction. And that's good karma. Chances are, if I were to ask Chris a favor in the future, he would be more likely to help me out. Which brings me to #8:

8. Use Your Manners: Say "Please" and "Thank You"
I'm always so impressed by people who exhibit good manners on LinkedIn. These are the people who send me questions in the form of questions, using those magical words of "please" and "thank you" that would make a mom proud. On the other hand, I'm always a bit irritated when people in my network TELL me to do something rather than ask for assistance. Even if it's your job to do something, it makes you feel better when you are asked rather than told. By asking permission, you are involving the other person in the request and working with them. And if you don't say please or thank you, people will notice your (lack of) manners.

9. Please Don't Send Me Your Resume Unless I've Asked for It
On behalf of everyone you're connected to on LinkedIn, I'd like to remind you that sending your resume to all your connections does not show that you are a brilliant and assertive job seeker. It only shows me that you don't know how to use LinkedIn effectively, and it might even deter me from helping you. If I want your resume, I'll ask for it.

10. Remember all the Little People When You've Found Your Next Job
If I've helped you out during your job search and we're 1st-level connections, I would love to receive a message when you're back to work. It shows me that you value our professional relationship and that you understand how to use the site. Plus I get to tell you congratulations, and that supercharges me, too.

Good luck and happy job searching!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Art of ACTIVE Job Seeking

During a Take Charge workshop at Walsh College today, I talked to the Social Media for Job Seekers class about the concept of "active" job seeking. The example I like to use is to ask the class to put their hands on front of the desk in front of them. This can be compared to the traditional job seeker.

In comparison, I ask them to place their hands in an "active hands" position (which I borrowed from Yoga). The "active hands" position engages each finger in the placement of the hand on the desk. It's similar to how a cat lands, or how a runner places his/her hands before a race begins.

The hands are engaged.

I think this is a great example to illustrate the concept of traditional versus active job seeking. The traditional job seeker reviews job boards, sends out resumes, maybe makes a phone call or two to fomer managers, and waits. And in this economy, they wait... and wait... and wait. And applies for more jobs, and waits. Lather, rinse, repeat. (sigh)

The "active" job seeker is fully engaged in his/her job search. They use social media to make connections to former coworkers, managers, vendors, clients, college classmates, professors, mentors, etc. They blog. They are active on LinkedIn, and/or Facebook, and/or Twitter, and they are professional on each of these sites. They attend networking events. They attend workshops to learn new skills or brush up on old skills. They have informational interviews to inquire about a possible change in careers. They update their resume periodically with job search activities (seminars, workshops) and they include their LinkedIn address on their resume. They are helpful to their network of connections, sharing information and resources, and they are respectful of the new roles of social media etiquette. They are optimistic and enthusiastic about their search. It's as if they are using all their senses and all available resources in their job search. And they amaze me. These are the kind of people I want to connect to now, because they are spectacular.

(See, you really need all those fingers ACTIVE to keep all these activities going!)

By being an "active" job seeker, they are poised for that next opportunity, just like the active hands in yoga forces you to become fully engaged and focused on the exercise, and just like the runner is poised to begin his/her race.

And from what I see, the "active" job seekers are the ones finding jobs. It does not happen overnight in most cases (although I learned of someone in the last month who joined LinkedIn, connected with a former professor, interviewed and was hired for a new position BEFORE it was even posted... and this all happened within a week), but it does happen at a faster rate than the traditional job seeker.

I hope this inspires you to become more active in your job search, and that you find your inner peace in the process.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Your Advertising is Annoying

Is it just me, or does anyone else out there get really annoyed by the stereotypes of women in commercials? If I see one more swiffer commercial where the sad mop is playing cheesy 80's love songs while the woman-of-the-house is cheerfully swiffering away, I may have to turn off the TV for good.

I remember in one of my first marketing courses in college, our professor stated at the beginning of class that advertising by nature was stereotypical. He said this as a disclaimer of sorts so that we would not be offended by any of the generalizations offered throughout class. I remember thinking the comment was odd, but agreeing with him at the time.

So many years have now gone by since that marketing class. I've been working in marketing since I graduated. I would agree that you sell by speaking to your audience's needs. But personally (and I'm going to speak for all the ladies out there) - I have never had a blissful moment about housecleaning. I dread cleaning my bathroom. I bribe my husband to do dishes (no, it doesn't work), and I refuse to dust because it is pointless. So if you think I have ever been affectionate about any cleaning products - you are sadly off the mark.

Any commercial which shows women happy about their housework or domestic duties is a bit offensive to me. Contrary to what some of these companies think, I don't sit around the kitchen all day long waiting to realize that I've forgotten my kid's lunchables and I don't think that the all-in-one detergent and fabric softener sheet is the best thing since sliced bread.

And don't get me started on minivans. They are not cool, in my opinion. Yes, we own one but my husband drives it. The first time I got in it I looked around and asked him, "well, where is it?" to which he replied, "What?" and I said, "The white flag."

And in case you're wondering, I do not own any mom jeans. (but thank you SNL - you get it.)

Sometimes when I don't understand an ad, I know why - it was not intended for me. Any beer commercial with monkeys is a perfect example. My husband thinks they are hilarious. I look at him and shake my head...

But other times, I know I'm their target. I'm in my 30's. I'm a working parent. And frankly it's irritating that they haven't figured out a better way to market to us. Maybe in the 50's it would've worked (any other Mad Men fans out there?). But not in circa 2009. C'mon people....

What do you think? What's the most annoying commercial that comes to mind for you - where you are the intended audience?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Secret for Workers-in-Transition (psst... Toastmasters)

I was talking to Marie Jakubiak today about a Toastmasters club we are forming at the Walsh College Novi campus, as well as the club at the Troy Campus (Park Street Presenters).

We were discussing how both clubs have been extremely successful at increasing members in recent months, and how many of the new members are workers in transition. When I'm talking to the unemployed about Toastmasters, I mention the following to them:

1. Toastmasters can help you with interviewing. How? Table Topics give you practice in answering questions on the spot.

2. Toastmasters can provide you access to network with hundreds of like-minded, driven professionals with leadership potential. Who wouldn't want these connections??? These are the people you want to know today, and the people you will want to know in the future when you're back to work. I can't even count the number of times I've provided a business referral to someone in Toastmasters, and many are not public-speaking related referrals.

3. Toastmasters will provide you with routine. Let's face it... when you're used to working 40-50-60+hours a week and then you're instantly unemployed, you're faced with an identity crisis. And a time crisis. What do you do with all that free time? And c'mon, admit it... even if you didn't love your job, you miss the routine. Most Toastmasters clubs meet twice a month.

4. Toastmasters will provide you with stability... through the current recession and beyond. There are many members who are beginners, but there are also many who have been with Toastmasters for 5-10-15-20+ years. And guess what? Toastmasters will NOT fire you. Well, unless you abuse the club rules (try selling to the members, etc.) but even in those circumstances we try to work things out.

5. Toastmasters will give you confidence and pride in yourself. I've been laid off, so I know how it can feel some days, like you've been kicked in the face. You start to doubt yourself. Even if you've been a dedicated, hard worker. Even if you were awarded Employee of the Month. Even if your former manager told you that you were the best hire she/he'd ever made. Because if you were so great, why aren't you working? Well, there are alot of great, talented people who are in transition right now. And you need to believe in yourself if you want your future employer to believe in you... especially in that crucial, uber-competitive job interview. Cuz gosh darnit, people like you! (remember Stuart Smalley?) I save every comment I'm handed after I give a speech at Toastmasters. I treasure the meeting awards I've won for best speaker, best table topics, best evaluator. And my Area Contest trophy, while it has an interesting story behind it, is a symbol to me - about me and how Toastmasters has helped me believe in myself.

6. Toastmasters will get you over your fear of public speaking. And if you're already over it, it will make you a better speaker. There's two types of people who come to Toastmasters: Those who are good speakers who want to be great speakers, and those who want to get over their fear or discomfort of speaking in front of groups. Guess what? Both will improve your communication and leadership skills through Toastmasters. And if you can speak confidently in front of groups, that's going to help you accelerate in your career and help you move into management positions, if you desire.

and if they're still listening to me after I've shared all this (you're STILL reading???), I'll share something a bit self-serving:

7. Toastmasters wants people like you. People who are highly talented, driven, leaders, lifelong learners, future CEOs, future managers, mentors, role models... and who have all the time in the world right now because they are NOT working. How many times have you put something off that you'd like to pursue because you couldn't fit it in with your work schedule? And how many times during your career did you think about maybe going back for that MBA, or looking into joining a professional association? And maybe you'd heard about Toastmasters, but were too nervous to actually go to a meeting. Well, after surviving a layoff, you're a stronger person and chances are you're open to taking chances. And you're the kind of person I would want in my Toastmasters club. You're the person I want in my professional network. Just because your former company has eliminated your position doesn't change that for me. Actually, it makes me want you as part of Toastmasters even more, because now you have the time to dedicate to helping my club and fellow members! :)

Toastmasters needs volunteers in leadership positions. Or you could even form your own club. How cool would THAT be on a resume? Forming a club in an organization known for leadership and public speaking. If I saw that on a resume, I would definitely call you in for an interview. That's just me, but I'm just saying....

I challenge you to check out a Toastmasters meeting. It can't hurt to visit and you never know who you'll meet. But I can guarantee you that there will be people there just as great as you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Confessions from a Fellow Working Mom

I have a confession... I watch the show John and Kate plus 8. I have been watching the show since the kids were babies and my son is close to their age so in a way I'm watching our kids grow together. I still watch the show now and secretly hope they can work things out. Not for the kids (well, maybe for the kids, too) but also for the two of them.

When I first started watching the show, I was fascinated (and a bit freaked out) how they managed to manage a large family. Some days I feel like I'm barely able to manage having one child. And how they could manage 8?? With two toddlers and six babies? I was in awe. I would joke with my husband about diapers x6 kids, potty training x6 kids. Trying to get the child to take a nap x6 kids. eek! I admired Kate for doing as much as she was doing and not breaking down into tears each night. And she and John are very engaging to watch on the camera. They are a fun couple and work well with the cameras.

Then the kids got older and they moved into a bigger house. I kinda figured they were being compensated for being on TV, but not until recently was it revealed how much they were being compensated. But you know what? So what? They have become the everyday family turned celebrity, and they are engaging to watch. Yes, probably not a perfect marriage but whose is? And yes she is strict with the rules... but c'mon people... 8 kids! If you're not strict and there are no rules, the kids would take over. It's just simple math. And I'm watching them and so are other people, so TLC should be compensating them for their time on the camera.

Another confession: I can relate to Kate. When she started the show, she was a typical stay-at-home mom with everyday hair, everyday clothes, and everyday lifestyle. And day-after-day with 8 kids. I love my "me" time - regardless if it's my job, my networking groups, or my toastmasters. After I had my son, I became so much more focused and driven at work to try to prove that motherhood did NOT change me or my drive to succeed at work. And when my son started to get bigger, I realized I was putting all of my time and energy into taking care of him when I wasn't at work, and "me" time had no priority. At all. And I missed that. So I started making time for myself. And I realized that I liked having stuff to do outside of work, outside of my family. It made me happier, more productive at work, and happier when I was spending time with my son.

So now Kate has had a few plastic surgeries (and c'mon ladies... if you had 8 kids and had the chance... so would you) and she has a stylish hair-do, nice manicures, and a tan. And she's more stylish. And she travels around for speaking engagements and book tours. That's pretty cool. Yes, she's still a mom. She admits that the show IS their career. That must be tough... They can stop the cameras if and when they're ready, but that's their choice. Obviously being on camera puts strain on your relationship, but it has also given them many opportunities to help support their growing family and offer them a few perks that all working moms wish they had. There, I've said it. Every working mom wants help around the house. We want highlights and manicures. We want our kids to have cute clothes, we want a big house, and we want the ability to travel with or without our families and we don't want to worry how we'll make ends meet. And an occasional day at the spa. But we also want to appreciate the time with our families, and sometimes having our own "me" time makes the time we spend with our families that much better. And I like my "me" time.

My son tells me when I need to get off the computer and go outside - he's helping me find my balance. But he also likes to watch TV with me, and sometimes we watch John and Kate.

The funny thing that I've noticed is their marital issues have given the show more viewers, driving the ratings even higher. Has anyone else noticed that TLC might be jumping the shark by adding in other "celebrity" guests to visit with the family??? Last night I saw an episode with Emeril Lagasse. Followed by an episode with Charm City Cakes. And more are coming, I'm sure.

Remember cousin oliver?
Brady Bunch's attempt to say "HEY - LOOK OVER HERE. No problems with this show. Nope. Just look at the cute kid with the glasses. HEY - CUTE KID WITH GLASSES OVER HERE."

So now TLC is trying to add in all these great celebrity appearances to "enhance" the show about everyday people. But the everyday people are not every day people anymore. They are celebrities. They have bodyguards. They have barbie jeeps.

So my final confession is that while I still enjoy watching the show, I'm glad I am not John or Kate. It's a lot of pressure to be in the public eye, and I would not want to be in their position to be scrutinized by the media. Yes, the perks would be nice, but living in front of the camera would be a bit too much for me. Even if Alice came over to help watch the barbie jeeps so I could go to the spa for my manicure...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More Free Workshops for Michigan's Unemployed or "In Transition" workers

If you're looking for work, you may want to check out the new free Take Charge workshops at Walsh College:

My recommendation is to attend the first kickoff session, to network with other job seekers. Here's more info:

Kickoff Event and Networking: Creating Success in Today’s Job Search

Walsh College President and CEO Stephanie Bergeron and Ford Motor Company Fund President Jim Vella will welcome attendees and introduce a panel featuring faculty teaching the workshops and previous attendees who will share their success stories. Following the panel, the Walsh College Career Services Department will lead a workshop covering networking do’s and don’ts in the quest for a job. At the end of this workshop, all participants will be invited to participate in a Job Seekers Networking event in the lobby area of the Jeffery W. Barry Center. Attendees can practice their networking skills, meet new friends who are also in transition, as well as learn about job opportunities that other attendees may be aware of.

FEE / ELIGIBILITY: Free and open to anyone who is currently unemployed.
DATE: Monday, June 8
TIME: 9:30 a.m. - noon
LOCATION: Troy Campus
AVAILABILITY: This workshop is still accepting registrations. Spaces are limited. Click here to register.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Any displaced worker seeking additional business education and/or looking to network with other job seekers.

Opening Remarks: Walsh College President Stephanie Bergeron, Ford Motor Company Fund President James Vella.
Panel Discussion: Moderator: Tammé Quinn Grzebyk, MSM; Panelists: Dr. Barbara Ciaramitaro, Dr. Lee Meadows, Lesia Mahon, MS., and former "Take Charge" attendees.
Instructors for Networking Workshop: Laurie Siebert, Director of Career Services at Walsh College, and Cheryl Carr, Outreach Coordinator / Advisor for Career Services at Walsh College

You never know who you'll meet... plus a great opportunity to gain moral support from other job seekers. Plus, you can meet some great people I've met through Take Charge who will share some of the things they have learned from Take Charge, and how it's helped them in their job search, including:

Mary Ann Tindall:
Eric van der Meulen:
Keith Burke:

They have impressed me with their positive attitudes, willingness to network, and desire to take advantage of opportunities during their transition. And they continue to inspire me. Thanks Mary Ann, Eric, and Keith.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Power of Connections

Yesterday, I spoke about using LinkedIn as a job search and networking tool at a workshop at Walsh College.

The auditorium was packed - normally a good thing, right? Except when you consider that everyone in the room is a worker-in-transition.

But, I felt good about the session. And I felt very proud of the people in the room. The attendees were, in fact, taking charge of their futures by getting out of their houses and attending a workshop. There was good energy in the room, and we're hearing a lot of great feedback from attendees.

Just this morning, I was asked to connect on LinkedIn by several attendees, including a woman named Lisa Gilkey, who had this as her status update:

Lisa Gilkey: Fired up after attending a "Taking Charge" workshop at Walsh College. 14 hours ago

That makes me smile. I am happy that the session was positive for Lisa. I'm happy that she's sharing with her connections the positive comments about the workshop. And hopefully that status update will prompt some of her connections to take notice, and maybe lead Lisa to her next career.

On a related note, I invited a guest speaker to the workshop yesterday, Keith Burke ( Keith attended the same workshop back in January (February?) and we connected via LinkedIn afterward. Since then, Keith has asked to be introduced to one of my connections, who in turn informed Keith of a job opportunity. If he hadn't attended the workshop, and connected with me, and if I hadn't connected with this person, Keith would not have heard of the job. I have a strong feeling that he will find something soon.

Keith and Lisa are two perfect examples of great transitional networkers. They are getting out there - meeting new people - taking full advantage of opportunities during their search. They are being assertive and positive in their search.

And they have inspired me. And that is the power of my connections. :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why I Love Toastmasters

Several years ago during an annual performance review, I asked my manager how I could improve on public speaking. I knew that working in marketing, I would someday need to be comfortable speaking in front of groups in order to move up in the organization. He suggested Toastmasters and told me a bit about the group.

At the time, the thought of speaking up in front of a room freaked me out. And speaking in front of a group of people who were GOOD speakers freaked me out even more. But this manager, Keith, was one of the best managers I have ever had. And he is a confident, engaging speaker. (Visit him here: So for Keith to tell me to join Toastmasters, it made me think that maybe it wasn't such a crazy idea...

A few years went by, and I finally started looking into professional organizations and found Toastmasters again. After several visits, I joined the Warren Toastmasters Club. It took me a few meetings to make the commitment, and I'm so glad I did.

Toastmasters is known as the "public speaking" organization, but what it's really about is improving your communication and leadership skills. Thank you to Vera for reminding us of this. When people join Toastmasters, they join for their personal goals. It might be improving their public speaking skills. It might be overcoming their fear of speaking in front of groups. It might be working on improving their English. Or, it might be because someone told them about Toastmasters and they really liked the members of the club. But regardless, I've found that when Toastmasters has started giving back to me is when I started giving back to my club and to our members and guests.

Toastmasters has taught me how to turn nervousness into positive energy. Toastmasters has given me the ability to practice speaking on a regular basis, so it's not as nerve-wracking to speak. Toastmasters has helped me to think on me feet - really helpful for those tough job interview questions. Toastmasters has taught me that it's not about me and my message, but it's about the audience and making a connection. And Toastmasters has taught me that I actually ENJOY speaking in front of people. This is coming from a person who was painfully shy.... plus it has given me confidence in myself and it has helped me to find my speaking voice.

And Toastmasters has introduced me to some really great speakers, friends, and mentors. People like Mary Comfort who has the gift of being an incredibly engaging and down-to-earth presenter and motivational speaker. People like Jim McVicar who has the ability to make you smile and laugh when he gets up to speak - and this is before he has said a word! And people like Joe Meirow, who started a new club in Shelby Township, Michigan - and he wasn't even a Toastmaster when he started the club! And people like Vera Johnson and Nancy Zychowicz - both which I consider to be true role models and mentors. Vera: for her enthusiasm and passion, while balancing an amazing career and young child. Nancy: for her willingness to support members of every club, and for her spirit and warm demeanor.

I aspire to be a strong speaker like Keith, Mary, Jim, Vera, and Nancy, and I know that Toastmasters will help me get there. Yes, I'm still nervous when I'm asked to speak, but I find speaking to be such a great experience that I push that nervousness aside. And now instead of dreading speaking, I actually enjoy it. In fact, I competed in a contest tonight and came in 2nd place!! :)

There are so many reasons why I love Toastmasters. If you're intrigued, check out a club sometime. and click the orange FIND button to enter your zip code.

ps -- here's a sample speech I gave at the Park Street Presenters group at Walsh College about my son Joshua, entitled, "He's Only Four."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

That's what the boats are for...

There are a LOT of good people out there looking for work in Michigan and I've been blessed to meet many of them. I've seen every level of motivation, from those who are frozen into doing little for their own job search and waiting for an email or a phone call offer, to those who are out there every week - networking, taking advantage of all available opportunities, offering help before asking for help, and being open to other possibilities with their careers.

It reminds me of a story.

There is a flash flood in a town, and a man is sitting on the roof of his house to escape the rising waters. A boat comes by, and they ask the man to come join them and get out of the water. "No thanks," he says, "God will take care of me." Another day goes by and another rescue boat approaches the man. "No thanks," he says, "God will take care of me." The next day the water overtakes the house and the man drowns. The man is up in heaven and meets God, confused. "God," he says, "why didn't you take care of me?"

To which God replies, "how do you think the boats found you?"

Whether you're religious or not, the moral of the story here is that help is available. You just need to be open to accept it. Sometimes, help finds you when you are helping others. Other times, you might need to be more open to other possibilities (such as networking) to find the help you need.

I hope that for all the good people out there doing there best to look for work, people like Marie McCarthy and or Priscilla Mary Owczarksi, that they will be the "boats" for others during their career search, and that these journeys will lead them to a job they love.

Marie impresses me with her dedication and people skills, and will make someone a phenomenal Administrative Assistant (visit her here: Just one week into her "worker in transition" journey, Marie joined me for an Inforum networking breakfast, where she learned about Motor City Connect, which resulted in an on-the-spot job lead and an interview. Sure beats surfing the job boards! Plus, Marie is adding new skills by joining Toastmasters International.

Priscilla Mary Owczarksi has helped others find jobs while she's looking for a job. For example, she will happily lend a helping hand when she is at the Michigan Works office to others that need help on the computer. Yes, she is searching for a job of her own, but during the process she is demonstrating her passion and experience working in HR (visit her here:

Keep your eyes open for those boats, and also consider extending your "boat" to a Michigan worker-in-transition. Especially for amazing people like Marie and Priscilla Mary.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Some favorite links

Warren Toastmasters Club:
Toastmasters International:

Thursday. Networking. And a Few Plugs...

At this past Thursday’s Take Charge: Job Search Strategies, I spoke about using as a job search and networking tool. At the end of the 30 minute presentation, I took questions out in the hallway from many enthusiastic job seekers.

I met Michael Winokur (visit him here:; Michael is looking for a position in Property Management) who connected to me originally through Patrick Distelrath (visit him here:; Patrick is considering starting his own business).

Patrick attended the Job Search Strategies session back in January and has been very assertive and enthusiastic about using LinkedIn and all available resources to help land him his next job. He met Michael at another networking event, and “introduced” me to him through LinkedIn. Michael has since reached out to me to connect with one of my connections for a job. And, he showed up at Thursday’s session and made the effort to meet in person.

You have to believe that with all the good people in Michigan looking for a job, those who are using their professional networks and all available resources have an advantage. I think Patrick and Michael will both find new careers soon. They are positive. They are enthusiastic. They know the value of networking and managing those connections. And they are eager to learn from others during the job search process.

I speak from a position of experience. I was laid off from a former employer several years ago. Lucky for me (odd, right?) that my employer offered career transition services through Drake Beam & Morin ( By the way, EXCELLENT program there. I learned a lot about myself and the whole job search process. Found out a few things I was doing right, and wrong (better to know…right?). Anyway, my transition lasted about 3 months - and this was when things weren’t nearly as bad with the job market.

By offering help through my network and through the great sessions at Walsh College, I hope that folks like myself can help others with their job search. If we all pitch in and help one person - each day - think about how much better off we would all be. And think about how you can help someone like Patrick or Michael.

Here’s one thing you can do: if you know of someone out of work, tell them about the free job search strategies session at Walsh College. Tell them I’ll be there speaking about using LinkedIn as a job search tool. And ask them what you can do to help.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sites and Services for your job search

Great article for those in transition - helpful job search sites:

We found a battery of new sites and services--such as LinkedIn JobsInsider, Recessionwire, and to providing the kind of cost-cutting, job-search, and moral-support tools that can be invaluable during lean times.

The complete story can be found here:,160925/article.html