Market Me First - The Positive Career and Work Action Plan Market Yourself | Make Money | Be Happy

------------------ In Black and White -------------------------------

Since 2005. Market yourself. Find better work. Make a name. Survive Layoffs. Be successful.


One piece of toilet paper?

A quick note..

Singer Sheryl Crow has proposed individuals use only one square of toilet paper when wiping.

I think this is a joke. A very entertaining one indeed.

Did anyone point out to Ms.Crow how much paper is wasted on superfluous things like music CD covers, concert tickets, entertainment magazines, celebrity pictures/posters, autographs, newspapers (which are carrying this fluff story), contracts and the scads of other papers which line her life?

Will the first person who takes Ms Crow's advice be the first in line to shake her hand for this fine suggestion? I am sure she will appreciate it!


Walmart vs Neimans

I ran into the problem over the weekend - "I am a Walmart employee in a Neiman Marcus world".

It's not there is something wrong with Walmart, it is that the rules have changed. Where there was once a preponderance of line jobs, (show up, punch a time clock, put widgets in widget holder, etc), there are now a wealth of specialty jobs.

Walmart is cheap. The goods are bought in huge amounts and priced with little margin. The win is in the bulk buy. If enough people buy products, Bentonville makes a tidy profit.

However, if a product marketed at Walmart does not move, it is dumped.

Compare that with Neimans. Neimans carefully selects products which meet the discriminating tastes of it's shoppers. Products are unique and priced accordingly.

The idea behind Neiman Marcus is a customer will pay more for products which are above and beyond what one can purchase elsewhere.

Jobs are the same.

Once upon a time, US Steel and General Motors packed them deep. Hundreds of thousands employees across dozens of cities. Company towns. Mass production. Assembly lines.

When the product moved (and the market was closed) there was plenty of work. When the product ceased moving or became too expensive to produce, the Walmart jobs disappeared.

Today's job market is all about the Neiman Marcus concept. Employers will pay a premium price for key people who are unique and talented. Companies are smaller and as likely to be global as they are lean and nimble. And the people products are priced accordingly.

The decision for today is whether or not you are a Neiman's employee waiting for the offer, or a Walmart employee waiting for the callback.

Either way, make sure you are not in the returns line.



Reference letters: How to get one

A former associate recently emailed and requested a reference letter from me.

I like helping former coworkers, they are the best source for job and sales leads.

Here is how his request for a reference letter went:


Hope you are good. Say, I am trying to get a new job at ABC and need a reference letter. Would you be so kind to put something together for me? You know, that I worked for you and what sort of job I did. It would be a big help.


I did not respond to his request for a reference letter and have not yet.
Why? Because I am a jerk?

First, how long has it been since we worked together? Spoke last? Seen each other?

What have you been doing since? Been in prison? Run a Ponzi scheme? Been fired numerous times?

How good of a job did you really do when we last worked together? Be honest.

Here is a better way to get a reference letter from a former employer.

First, pick a person you actually knew - not the supervisor listed on an organization chart you saw once.

Next, phone them. Better yet, phone them and arrange a meeting. Lunch is good. Mexican sounds good to me this week.

When you speak, ask them how they are doing. Ask if they recall working together.

Tell them truthfully what you want from them - "Bob, thank you for your time. I am back out looking at a new position and could really use your help. Do you think I could include you as a reference for my next position?".

(Notice - you are not asking for a reference letter, just a reference!).

Next, tell your contact exactly what you have been doing since you both last worked together. Where you have worked, what you have done - tie in how important your experience the gained while working together was to what you have done.

That's right, butter up that contact good.

Remember, email has a purpose and a place. Asking for something, (money, references, a job) is not the place to use email. You have to do it in person or as close to it as possible.

If your contact agrees to write you a reference letter, ask as nicely as possible for an expected date to receive the letter. "Say Bob, I know you are busy. I would not expect that letter until next Tuesday or Wednesday if that helps" is a good way to state your thoughts.

Once you receive the reference letter, "THANK YOUR CONTACT" - most people don't do this. They are too busy trying to get a job to remember a simple thank you.

Finally, if you can ever do so, return the favor by offering to write a reference letter in turn or any other request your contact may make.

Please save this blog entry for your references!


Big fat pet peeves

First annoyance I can think of late at night...

Posting song lyrics.

Someone remarks online in a discussion forum, "I heard [Artist Name] has past away. I sure did like him. I have his album {Album Name} and thought it was great. I really like that song [Gratuitous Song Name]. I will miss him".

Immediately, some dunderhead will write a post.

[Song Title]
Blah Blah Blah
Blah blah Blah
Blah blah blah blah blah blah Blah

And so on until every, single word of the song, including phrases like "Oh yeah!"
"Uh huh" etc. has been spelled out and paraphrased.

I mean, that is really obnoxious the insistence some people have to copy words from an album cover as if they are making some grand, intelligent statement.

Cut it out!

Pet peeve rant off!


Sorry, Seth, but I get it even if you don't

Note: Something is really wrong with me. Almost everyone of Seth Godin's posts lately have irritated the heck out of me. I have a theory why and may start an ENTIRE BLOG about the reason why.

In the meantime, I will now start rebutting each of his posts for my own amusement.


Seth Godin wrote lately...

"It's common wisdom that government regulation is bad for business, and especially bad is regulation that requires change.

I don't get it."

Sorry, Seth, I do.

Here's the deal.

Politicians seldom create laws which are based upon "common good". They create laws and policies (and the fines, fees, tariffs and taxes which always accompany laws) based upon their supporters wants and needs.

I am sure that once in a while, a politician has sponsored a bill which truly was about "good". I just can't think of one right now!

The problem is that politicians today sponsor bills which are based upon input from their supporters and lobbyists.

So when a representative wants to increase emission standards for automobiles it is no surprise you find out that the Sierra Club or Greenpeace is one of the politician's larger supporters.

Or when a legislator wants to tighten up bankruptcy laws, you find his supporters include Chase and Citibank.


Because politicians are human and thus are susceptible to human emotions, wants and needs including fame, bribery and coercion.

Therefore, many of us are skeptical about the true motivations for most regulations and know full well behind every blustering politician is any number of focused special interest groups attempting to push their agenda on businesses whether it is truly "needed" or not.

The solution?

The market.

Case in point -
Drivers want fuel efficient cars, for instance, the market demand proves it. Fuel efficient cars have better emission standards than many other makes and models.

No legislation was needed only demand by the market place. Only the increase in fuel prices brought about by growing worldwide demand.

Legislation often impairs rather than facilitates business' ability to meet market demand by imposing standards and requirements which have little to do with the original problem.

Further, by the time legislators get around to dealing with a problem, crafting the language of a bill, appeasing their supporters and lobbyists, watering down the original intent through trade outs with other legislators and actually voting on the bill, the result is far from the actual solution needed for the problem and only serves to dishearten supporters and detractors.

Why did they bother in the first place? (Other than trying to look busy!).

Regulation has run a muck in American politics. Let the market decide before letting legislators muck things up further, Seth.

And that is why business gets it and you still don't.


Customer reversal

In the private sector, employees park around back, in a designated spot or parking lot.

Premium parking spaces are reserved for upper management or in the case of retail, for customers.

That is why I found it interesting this morning when I went to pay my toll pass bill.

It was raining as I pulled into the parking lot at the local toll pass office. There were a row of covered parking spaces adjoining the building. Each spot had a bright blue sign which said "Toll Employee Parking Only".

Interesting, because customers pay for the usage of the toll road and thus pay toll pass employee salaries. One would think that customer parking would be the premium spots, especially during inclement weather.

Puzzling, but another difference between the private and public sector. Most likely, the public employees petitioned for better parking as a benefit of service. I don't know.

I paid my bill and left. I don't take the parking situation as an affront because I park at the toll pass office so infrequently it is no big deal to me. I pay for my toll pass so I can drive on the toll roads.


The IRS and the missing tax form

Ah, tax time in the United States!

April 15th, is by law, the day on which all individual tax returns must be filed and returned to the IRS.

I had the opportunity to phone the IRS - Internal Revenue Service (responsible for US tax collections) - to request a form for my tax return.

As with phoning any government office, I was prepared for the worse when calling the IRS. I expected long hold times, long messages and complex phone trees.

(Afterall, the role of the goverment and large corporations is to shield any employee from uneccessary phone calls and direct contact with the public. In their eyes, all phone calls are uneccessary when they originate from taxpayers or customers).

First, when calling the IRS, one must understand and navigate the questioning of automated attendants accurately.

For me, that meant understanding which IRS form I was requesting and how it applied to the IRS's system of handling calls. A copy of a W2 is part of the tax preparation calling tree and not the refund process for instance.

Next, all IRS employees answer their call, "This is Mr. Davis, GE ID xxxxxx. How may I help you?".

This is interesting. In the private sector, I would never imaging answering my phone. "This is Mr Jones, company ID xxxxx. How can I help you today".

I answer my phone, "Thank you for calling XBX Corp. This is Jack, how can I help you?".

I imagine that the IRS has their employees state their names in this manner as sign of professionalism and also, possibly, to protect their identity. I found it rather impersonal and not along the lines of a new, friedlier IRS I had seen advertised lately.

The IRS employee, with tremendous efficiency, transferred my call to another line where I went into holding pattern for about ten minutes.

No problem, I expect this from the IRS during their busiest time - sort of like the returns line at Macy's the week after Christmas.

When my call was picked up, another IRS customer service representative, "Mrs Green, GE number xxxxxx" answered.

When I attempted to let "Mrs Green" know what I needed, she interupted and recited the List of Acceptable IRS Questions (and Appropriate Answers).

After about five minutes of careful and robotic answers, and learning my name, tax ID and address, the IRS's "Mrs Green" put me on hold for two or three minutes.

When "Mrs Green" returned, her demeanor changed entirely. She seemed almost gleeful.

That was when I got nervous. Very nervous. It is not good when the IRS is happy about talking to a taxpayer.

I imagined this huge IRS computer churning out a single printout "IRS Tax Criminal - Audit with Extreme Prejudice - Crime: Failure To Have Correct Form".

I imagined "Mrs Green", realizing that she was in for an unexpected bounty bonus for locating an IRS criminal, envisioning herself receiving the IRS Employee of the Year Award.

"Mrs Green" and I did not even say goodbye. The call ended with silence and a disconnect.

Afterwards, I had a troubled night.

I tossed and turned, waiting for the invetitable crash of glass as the IRS raided my home searching for my missing tax form. My wife punched me and told me to stop imagining things and go to sleep.

Things do look better in the morning, my tax return is complete and ready to be mailed.

April 15th is just around the corner. File early and file often!


Seth Godin - urgghh...

Seth Godin has a new blog (The Dip) also the title of a new book he is working on.

Godin offers his advice for college applicants (and their parents)- Do not to play the game - that is, the jumping through college admission hoops to make the entrance into the top universities.

Rather, Godin encourages students and their parents to consider other, less known schools and once enrolled, attempt to stand out from the crowd.

Now this is easy to say from someone who already graduated from Stanford (ahem, Seth Godin)!

Stanford grads (especially those with MBAs, oh Mr. Godin, calling you!) have incredible earning power post graduation. Compare that same earning power with the grad from University of Nowhere, College of Nothing and Nobody Heard of U.

As a parent, I will work my tail off to get my kid into the college with the best chance of opportunity for employment, contacts and earning power. That bragging right belongs to the Harvards, YAles and Stanfords.

Mr. Godin, I expect my child to stand out today in elementary school and later in college - no matter where they end up.

But I won't take a chance on a less prestigious university and hope they stand above the crowd in the post-graduate world.

Seth Godin - where will you send your kids?

Will you tell them to take the college with the mediocre reputation and hope they follow dear old dad's advice, read his books and stand out from the crowd?

Or will you have them take the guaranteed winner university, knowing that the degree increases their visibility and then follow your advice in the work place?

I guess it helps if Dad is an alumni, eh, Seth?


Conference calls and conference calling

In sales, conference calls are a part of life. Frequently, a customer asks to conference in a sales support engineer or another member of their company.

The subject is a particular sore spot with me because a) my office phone does not have conferencing or three way calling and b) my company does not have a particular conference bridge in house or under contract.

Yes, my company needs to upgrade the phone system (I am a big fan of Asterisk BTW). But in the meantime my options are 1) relocate to the conference room and use the big conference/speaker phone, 2) Use my cell phone (ugh) or 3) Use a conference call company.

So, here are the results of my search for a third-party conference call company I could use for daily calling.

A friend was one of the founders of so I thought I would check them out first.
The rates posted on the website were $.19 per minute for voice conference calls. has a reward system which gives customers 1 point for each minute of conference call time. Points can be redeemed for airline miles and gift cards.

In Google, only one conference call company had a higher search page rank than, and that was - I wonder why that is? :) offers free conference calls, only the free version does not have a toll free dial in number. Rather, users pay local tolls on the conference call.
However, for a $.10 per minute, has toll free dial in numbers for users.
So, although not completely free, the pricing for conference calls through is better.

Next, I checked out Accuconference. Accuconference has non-reservation rates of only $.09.9 per minute which a very good value.
However, Accuconference also offers a fixed monthly rate of $99.00 per month toll-free for a fixed number of participant lines. If your company holds regular conference calls with the same participants, this might be a good value for you.

I have been using Skype for some time and I noticed a thread on using Skype for conference calls. Sure enough, in the help section on, there are instructions for making conference calls using Skype. Naturally, all of the participants need to have Skype software and Skype ID's as well.

Using Skype in my particular circumstance, is a Skype conference call requires me to have my computer available - Skype is an Internet-based software application. Because I have a laptop, a conference call would generally not be a problem. However if I am in an airport or car, then conference calling through my computer is not advantageous.

I felt like a dork when I forgot to mention Webex sooner WebEx. After all, I have used WebEx a half a million times. Sure enough, if pay-per-use conference calling is desired, Webex has it for a high conference call per minute charge of $.33 - however, that includes web presentations and not just voice conferencing. However, if money is not an object and a computer is not available of needed, one could use Webex for simple voice conference calling as well.

I recently was invited to view a customer's software platform using GoToMeeting. It was fast and easy to use. Like WebEx, GoToMeeting is both conference calling and web presentation - and for an attractive price. Only $49.00 per month for unlimited usage!

A quick afternoon of research and I have a number of good choices for conference call companies. Now I have to figure out the best way to expense it! Expense reports are a fine subject for another entry!
We use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit our website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, click here.