Oct 152008

After a month of elation having secured, I thought, two great clients, they each dumped me within two days of each other.

Is “dumped” the right word? Am I not being somewhat judgmental? Hard on myself? Harsh even? Well, that’s what it felt like.

In fact it felt more viscerally percussive — a kick in the gut — than losing my job which I rather expected. I had seen myself as acquiring these two clients relatively easily and that they were the foundation of a business I was going to grow. Now I feel shaken instead.

They each had reasons which were rational and not pointed at me or my product. In one instance the client decided the organization needed an agency with contacts in Sacramento. In the other the organization’s members were feeling the pinch of the economic downturn.

However in each case there had been miscommunications and unfulfilled expectations on both sides. So I can’t help feel these factors underpinned their decisions.

I was reeling for several days. One day I ran into my neighbor who has her own boutique PR business for a niche industry. When I told her I had lost two clients she said, “Yes, just like me. I’m applying for a temp job.”

There was no self-pity there. She’d been through this before.

It’s been my philosophy in these months since I was decommissioned by the Oakland Tribune that companies are letting go of their PR staffs and their PR agencies. They are probably taking on more contract workers. So how do I find them? That’s what I have to find out.

Oct 082008

I held my first Writing My Life class at the Meals on Wheels Dorrwin Jones Senior Center Tuesday October 7. I was extremely satisfied with the way it turned out. I thought maybe three or four people would show but in fact there were seven of us: Grace, Marie, Alice, Robert, Shirley, Cristal and even Mr.Yan came for a few minutes.

They all had distinct reasons for coming. I asked everybody to go around the room and explain why they were there. Grace said that her sister had started her own autobiography five years ago and Grace still had not seen the results. “So I just want to see how this is done,” she said with a certain amount of belligerence.

Marie from Indonesia speaks Mandarin. She said she wants to improve her English.

Alice is deeply motivated. Her niece has been after her for some time to tell the family story.

Robert gave a rambling explanation about being a short story writer which I could not make heads or tails of.

“So do you see your life as a short story,” I asked him.

“No, but there are lots of stories in it,” he explained.

Shirley could not give a reason at first and feigned indifference.

Cristal said she thought her great-grandchildren might find her life story “amusing”.

What little I know about these people already made these explanations intriguing . Alice and Cristal for instance suffered during World War II in their respective countries of Japan and Germany and I’m sure they will have stories to tell that are more than just “amusing”.

I asked the class to take 15 minutes to write about the circumstances of their births and what their parents told them of this event. I was fascinated to see Grace and Shirley began in the most ungenerous fashion. Shirley refused to take a notebook that had been provided for her. She just made some notes in the margins of the piece of paper with the day’s lesson plan on it.

Grace chose a tiny notepad and scribbled a couple of sentences. But after 20 or 25 minutes both of them had exceeded the space they had to write in.

Cristal who sees poorly wrote with a heavy marker pen in large letters. Marie with language difficulties labored over four sentences. She needed some help spelling the word married. Meanwhile, Robert who had earlier told us he was a psychotherapist needed some spelling help as well, the words cistern and growl.

I will be interested to see who shows up in two weeks at our next meeting. When everybody disbursed, Robert said he found it “very encouraging”. It was an odd comment but it pleased me.. Alice thanked me profusely: “I’ve been wanting to do this for ages and you came along just in time,” she said.

Oct 022008

I went to my tax preparer to get advice on how to start my own business.  She said I have to register with www.sfgov.com for $25 fee; and if I don’t the dead spirits of Sodom and Gomorrah will rain biblical indignities on my head.

I should also get a separate checkbook for business expenses. In the box where I put my business receipts I should establish a separate folder for assets — like the new filing system I bought — and one for entertainment.

I was truly peeved to learn that my entertainment expenses — taking sources and prospects out to lunch– garners only a 50% tax deduction.  But this is my main MO, government! Cheez.

Oct 022008

On September 24I had an interview with Gary Goodson of the Jewish Vocational Services, a nonprofit that offers career counseling. When I originally made the appointment the few weeks ago I hadn’t yet decided what direction to go in, whether to pursue a job or go freelance. But by the time I met Gary, I had felt drawn to working for myself.

I told him, “I really had not decided to be self-employed.  I just felt myself drawn this way.”

Gary said I should respect that instinct.  However he added the JVS rarely counseled people who had decided to engage in self-employment.

But he did give me some good advice, to wit, to check out the Small Business Administration, Business Network International and the small-business forum of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. It is one week later and I have not done any of those.

He recommended highly a book by C J Hayden called “Get Clients Now”. He said it set out an easy to follow plan for marketing.  He also told me to subscribe to the San Francisco Business Times. Since I am going to have to cancel my subscription to The Economist because it’s just too dear for me right now so maybe this is a wash.

Anyway, he approved of my MO of calling on sources for informational interviews. He called my Rolodex of sources “a goldmine”. I thought he might like to have it himself.

Leaving his office, I went Stacy’s bookstore and bought the Hayden book, checked out the SBA to get a schedule of their meetings and dropped in to say hello to my cousin Stanley at his office.  All of these addresses were in the same four-block area. Being unemployed has some perks at times.

Sep 252008

I realize that I have left out a whole part of my soul — that of my passion for memoirs. During the last five years I have been ghost writing a memoir for a remarkable man who lives and does business in the East Bay. For two years I have had an additional client, a delightful woman of distinguished provenance in Walnut Creek. This work is extremely meaningful to me and I think to them.

Furthermore since I have become interested in the fortunes of prisoners and released ex offenders, I have been seized with the urge to conduct a class in writing one’s autobiography for inmates in San Quentin. In fact when I was visiting San Quentin for my research back in February I asked the inmates I interviewed if there would be an interest in such a course and they said yes. Were they being polite? I don’t think so.

One of my sources for my Oakland Tribune series on ex offenders has now started a consultancy to facilitate grant writing. He is working on finding me a grant to teach the course at San Quentin. He is well-connected there and has already received permission from the woman who is head of educational programs.

In the meantime my friend Linda who manages the nearby senior center of Meals on Wheels is going to give me the opportunity to conduct such a class for her clients. But I don’t know if that will work since 80 % of them are Cantonese speakers. I can’t imagine how many of them would be interested. But it would be very good practice for me simply to manage such a class.

Sep 182008

I went to the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association for an informational interview with a former source. He gave me a couple of suggestions which were not very substantive. But the high point of the conversation was his discussion of his retirement plans which were so attractive (back to Vietnam to visit the places where he was active in the war) that I asked him to take me along!

“Well I don’t think my wife would like that,” he said.

“Well, she can come too,” I said magnanimously.


Sep 162008

I can’t go to the PG&E summit on climate change today because I have a deadline for a client.

I agonized about this. Then I had to think this over: since when does networking become more important than real money-earning work?

Interesting how one’s mind works. It is a puzzlement.

I went on to screw up this afternoon because I had an appointment to see a consultant at the Jewish Vocational Services and misread my diary thinking it was Thursday. I left the man two pitiful messages asking him to forgive and reschedule. Fortunately, he called back and we make a date for next week.

Sep 152008

Nigel Brooks was the speaker at GraceWorks today, a management consultant and expert on personal styles. He gave a simplified presentation of the Myers-Briggs system of personal styles, of which there are four: Causals (emotional hotheads like me), challengers, visionaries and stabilizers. He has offices both in Phoenix and in San Francisco and says he has acquired all of his clients, 100%, through networking.

How can you tell what type of personyou’re dealing with? By noticing the words that they use.

Challengers are people who use vocabulary such as action, adaptable, adventure, audacious, playmate, promote and negotiate.

Causals use of words such as acceptance, counsel, heal, integrity, literature, love and sensitivity.

Stabilizer, a bean counter in my language, is concerned with accountability, authority, organization, safety, honor and traditions.

Visionaries, people such as architects, are focused on analysis, the future, innovation, logic, hobbies, strategy, proof and ideas.

Of course one can be a mixture of all of these types with certain ones dominant.

I was sitting next to Nigel and offered him my card. He took one look at it and said, “causal.” My heart sank for I loved this beautiful card that I had carefully chosen from www.123print.com.

Then he gave me what he called his “causal card”. It featured a photograph of him and he uses it for promoting himself as a public speaker and broadcaster. But he uses another one for management consulting.

I realized that if I want to attract businesses as clients that I have to design a card that will promote confidence among stabilizers and visionaries. He agreed. So back to the drawing board at www.123print.com.

Nigel was kind enough and smart enough to send everyone whose card he acquired a link to his presentation that morning: www.bldsolutions.com/80915.ups.lpres.pdf.

 And a link to a self survey to determine what type one is: ups.enterpriship.com/profile/survey.php
 For the survey, one is prompted for a username and password; the results will be sent back to you via email.
 The username is: specialuser
The password is: userspecial

I figured that I was a causal/challenger/visionary/stabilizer. I got it exactly right.

Sep 092008

It was both great and hellish to attend GraceWorks again yesterday morning.  I was hoping former colleagues, Barbara, Rebecca and Tim would arrive as they had said they might I brought my Lola as usual.  A service dog, she is normally extremely calm and well-behaved at meetings.  Generally after poking around for a few minutes and exploring a new environment a bit, she settles down and goes to sleep.  But not yesterday.  She was anxious for the whole hour and a half of the meeting and kept trying to escape.  It was very embarrassing especially during the speaker’s address which I really wanted to hear!

The speaker was Janet Beach, managing partner of US Marketing Services, a marketing consultancy.  She’s also chairs the Job Forum Chamber of Commerce and wrote a bestseller, “How to Get a Job in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

As soon as she took the podium I realized she was the same woman I passed as I entered the room who had remarked, “Oh, there is a dog here. I love places that allow dogs.”

I was wondering what she was thinking now!

Her topic was: “Defining objectives:Increase your chances of being hired.”

I really really wanted to hear this and I really really didn’t want Lola to distract me or anybody else. But the mutt wouldn’t sit down. she kept tugging at the leash and trying to leave the room. I was sitting in the front of the room so everybody behind us noticed this easily.

The situation reminded me of mothers forced to take their bawling infants out of church during Mass. I thought maybe she just had to pee, at least I hoped that was the reason, so I took her out to the street. Oh no, she actually wanted to go home. she indulged me with a few tinkles and I took her back in and the bad behavior resumed. Finally I spritzed my precious cockapoo with a flower essence called rescue remedy.  When I do this at home, she calms almost immediately.  Yesterday, nothing.

I was determined to listen to Janet Beach although I had missed some of her discourse I got the drift of it. She was saying that when you network with people you must be very specific about what you’re looking for — even if you’re not sure what you want yet.  You must have a job title  in mind, industry and companies you’d like to work for.  Without being specific, people can’t help you.

She allowed that early in one’s job search one isn’t necessarily sure of what one wants.  But one can research a job/industry for a month or six weeks before trying on the next job/industry.

I found her advice about being specific extremely helpful because I knew that today, Tuesday September 9, I was going to have an informational interview with former sources.  And I used that advice to advantage.  My two hosts really got down to thinking for me when I asked them if they know people in thus and so company.

I asked the speaker, “How do you research the company if you don’t know anyone who works there?”

The suggestions were numerous: LinkedIn, San Francisco Business Times, joined the Chamber of Commerce which has an introductory meeting on Wednesdays from three to five for prospective members, a publishing company called Wet Feet specializes in books about particular industries.

It was also suggested that one volunteer to join the ambassadors club at the chamber of commerce as a way of getting to know many people. Someone pointed out that he uses LinkedInby inputting a company name to see the background of all the staff, their profiles, their job titles and average age.

Carlos Hernandez  advised that thoseinterested in nonprofits check out the web sites called M2 and taproot which I promised myself I will do again.

Beforeshe took off for the airport, Janet Beach said she had learned something from the networking discussion (which thanks to Lola, I completely missed)that it’s useful to have heard ones elevator speech with the locution: “what I mean by that is…”

She said it helps prevent the glazed look on the part of the person listening to your elevator speech.

I was still struggling with Lola and at one point I grabbed her from going out the door only to overturn my cup of tea on my neighbor’s lap right as we were about to do an exercise.  Talk about mortified. I took his card, promised to send him $10 bucks for cleaning and shot out of there.

It turned out that Barbara  was the only former colleague who arrived at GraceWorks.  It’s a long haul for most people coming from out of town.  But it was good connect with her again.

Sep 082008

Last week I had a much anticipated informational interview with the head of a nonprofit organization that had been a source of mine when I was a journalist with the Oakland Tribune.

She and I were not on the same page. I wanted to find new clients, as I explained to her — either serving her association or any of its members as a writer. Meanwhile, she wanted me to exploit  the subject matter of my series of stories published at the Oakland Tribune on reentry of ex-offenders into Oakland.

Noting that Oakland had just had a rash of armed robberies, she said, “This is Oakland’s most critical problem.”

She said she would introduce me to a couple of people in the Oakland government to promote more stories on the subject.  When I pointed out that I didn’t have a publisher for them because I’m no longer working at the Tribune, this didn’t seem to to be an issue to her.

She of course is absolutely right that this is Oakland’s biggest problem. But getting the city of Oakland to publish my stories is not going to work. I’m always amazed how people who are not in journalism are ignorant of the process.

Furthermore, I have myself considered calling my sources in the city government — not to  promote the series of stories but for work and for informational interviews — and decided against it.  Now is simply not the time to align myself with  the mayor’s office since it has lost so much credibility.

Clearly, my source at the nonprofit association was steering the away from mining her for contacts about her members.  And I let that happen.