Monday, May 21, 2012

Memorial Day

                      If you close your eyes and keep your fingers crossed, Memorial Day will be here before you know it. The day is intended to honor the men and women who died in our nation’s wars. For most of us May 28 will involve parades, barbeques and perhaps briefly thinking about all deceased veterans whether they died on active service or long after their uniforms were put aside.

                       There are a handful of stories about how Memorial Day came to be, just as there are various cities around this land claiming honor as the site of its origination. The most widely accepted version however credits the ladies of the South who started to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who lost their lives in The War Between the States, our own Civil War. Many people confuse the purpose of Memorial Day with that of Veterans Day. The latter was originally “Armistice Day” commemorating the end of hostilities (1914-1918) between the Allied Forces and the Imperial forces of Germany during ”The War to End All Wars”. Of course it wasn’t really a war to end all wars because two decades later we had that much larger and bloodier conflict we now call “World War II”. Then there was Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and who knows what will be next?  Our young men and women will ever be in uniform manning the walls and protecting those of us at home.

                             As most of you know the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld the right of anti-war protestors to show up at funerals with signs to celebrate the deaths of fallen warriors even as service members are being laid to rest eternal. The hurt of such demonstrations has been subordinated to protecting the right of free speech. I understand free speech and how important it is in a democracy; indeed I express my own opinion in this blog site every time I write a post. What I do not understand is the desecration of any person’s memory during holy final moments, particularly one who has given his/her life for our country. As for the few who choose to interrupt and celebrate the death of a service person, my editor will not permit me to use such words in this forum.

                              The legendary General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur, is remembered for many contributions over his long and distinguished military career but none more so than when he said “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” With respects to the general, old soldiers do die and in 2011 we lost the last of them from World War I. His name was Frank Buckles and he served as a corporal and ambulance driver in France. He was 110 years old.

                                   On this coming Memorial Day and on all other days of the year for that matter, don’t forget to remember the valiant men and women of our Armed Forces. As a matter of fact you don’t have to wait until May 28. Whenever you see a man or woman in military uniform, personally thank him or her for their service. I guarantee you that they will appreciate your doing so.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lend a Helping Hand

Many of us have either been fired at some point in our career or have had a close friend caught in such an unhappy situation. The message here is: if things are good for us, we should extend a helping hand to those who are down on their luck.

When I was working in New York City we used to call Park Avenue “the beach”. The avenue was studded with corporate headquarters and consequentially the upper echelons of management were buzzing about in abundance. When a businessman/woman was out of work they could walk along the avenue as if they were strolling a beach (all the while disguising anxiety under a facade of casualness.) The drill was to walk down Park toward Grand Central Station in the morning hoping to bump into someone on their way to work who could either hire you or give you a lead on a job. The process was reversed in the late afternoon, those out of work would walk up Park Avenue hoping to bump into prospective targets who were on their way down the avenue heading for Grand Central and their trains for home in the bedroom communities of Westchester county or Connecticut.

Being out of work is a brutal trial for those directly involved of course, but the misery also spills over to their families. My gut tells me that being fired or having close friends out of work will be part of this “recession” for a very long time. Look around. Remember the guy who used to be up at dawn racing to catch the early train? Now you see him shopping mid-day for specials at the supermarket. With slight variations such sad scenes are repeated time and again. One out-of-work executive told me, “I'm using my friends ruthlessly to find a job”. If that doesn't make you pause and reflect, I don't know what will. That’s not what we think our friends are for. Yet I understand exactly where he is coming from. Everything has changed in job-searching these days, including the “all purpose” resume. Nowadays your credentials have to be tailored to a specific position and fine-tuned as to what you can bring to that company. Hiring companies want to know why you are uniquely qualified and just what you will bring to the party. Anything else is more or less window dressing. In-Person Communications can help in such situations. We spend a lot time assisting professionals to organize their backgrounds and then rehearsing them on how they can best present themselves for job interviews.

If you are “on the beach” right now, don't hide in the basement hoping some miracle will get you back in the game. It's not going to happen. You have to be pro-active and get the word out to anyone who can help you. Make your family, friends and associates part of your team in the job search.

If you are lucky to be working now, don't think that “because you are doing a great job” you won't be downsized. Make marketing yourself a way of life. Solicit mentors to help you constantly improve your value in the marketplace. Remember that when upper management wants to improve the bottom line they usually do so by lopping off heads – percentages with no names attached. Saving dollars is what counts in their mind. This is particularly true when those gray hairs show up around your own temples. Years ago when the creative guru John Bergin spoke of the advertising fraternity he said, “Advertising is the only business where experience counts against you.” Well, John was ahead of his time for this applies to virtually every business these days.

The name of the game is to consistently upgrade your own skills so that you are prepared when and if there is a knock on the door.