Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jack of all Trades, Master of Some

This LinkedIn update is intended for potential employers. Since I am currently seeking employment, it is reasonable to expect potential employers to look here and other places in which I have an online presence. While much of my writing, research, interests and perhaps a little too much of my personal life over the last ten years can be found by a simple search of my name (the top three hits in a recent Google search return my LinkedIn profile, my blog site and my Facebook profile), there is much more to my story than what can be found by clicking those links. LinkedIn reveals my basic biographical information, my blog showcases a specific style of my writing (but requires much more time to digest than a busy hiring manager has), and my Facebook profile is largely private unless one is in my “friends” list. But even if it was all was public, my story, as depicted online, is fragmented, disjointed and incomplete. This essay cannot even begin to fill in the gaps, but it can offer some context, it can help put a frame around what many consider to be an “interesting life;” it is designed to both mitigate any negative preconceptions as well as promote myself as a hard-working, creative, intelligent, compassionate and driven asset to any employer.

On October 17th, 2000, I was involved in a violent head-on collision that nearly took my life. I not only could have died, according to many, I should have. While I have no clear memory of that incident almost 15 years ago, I clearly remember regaining consciousness in the hospital five weeks later. Up until that time, my employment history entailed several jobs that spanned everything from manual labor to upper management in a Silicon Valley tech firm. I fixed cars, worked sheet metal, tuned microwave electronics, developed new products for that tech firm before moving into the marketing manager position for that same company, built and configured personal computers, worked as a machinist/model maker and, at the time of my accident, I was running a cellular phone store when digital cellular was still relatively new. Experience and specific vocational educational targets, along with learning my craft as I worked was sufficient to not only secure employment, but also excel at everything I undertook. My brush with death stopped me in my tracks and it would be almost three years before I was rehabilitated enough to begin my life again. I was 40 years old.

I discovered the job market changed in ways that were completely unfamiliar to me in just three years. For the first time in my life I was not able to secure employment easily, at will. Indeed, I was not able to secure it at all. The economy, a three-year gap in my employment history and the lack of a college degree compelled me to return to college in the fall of 2003. I have been there ever since. In the winter of 2007 I was awarded a BA in government-journalism from California State University, Sacramento (magna cum laude) and during that time, in a way that paralleled my former employment opportunities, turned a journalism internship into a part-time job. While that job was amongst the most personally rewarding I have ever had, it was not sufficiently financially rewarding. I decided to go back to school to earn a master’s degree in communication studies. My plan upon graduation was to secure full-time employment as a professor while still writing news part-time. I taught at CSUS while working on my MA, but instead of entering the “real world” upon completion of my MA, I applied for doctoral programs at several universities. I accepted an offer from Louisiana State University in the fall of 2011. Until last June, I was living in Baton Rouge, LA while teaching and studying at LSU.

After four years at LSU, my doctoral coursework is complete. I plan to have a dissertation ready to defend at some point in 2016. I have taught hundreds of students at both LSU and CSUS in many of the various arts and sciences found under the umbrella of “communication studies.” My students found in me what any potential employer will also find – an individual who brings a breadth of experience into everything he does. I am equally comfortable in the classroom, the boardroom and the garage. My forté is not just the ability to communicate effectively, but to do so with an ethos my target audience can identify with. Furthermore, through my research – not specifically what I have researched, but rather the fact that I have extensive experience with research - I am able to learn and understand complex ideas quickly and, most importantly, analyze, synthesize and present those ideas coherently in terms that others can easily understand.

Finally, it is important to say a few words about not my words found on the Internet, but my pictures. My profile picture for LinkedIn is a “head shot” taken by a photographer for Prosper Magazine when I was one of several student bloggers chosen to cover the Perspectives 2006 event in Sacramento, CA. While I am dressed professionally, and although I was working in a professional, albeit unpaid, capacity, some might view my hair style as anything but professional. It should come as no surprise that I respectfully disagree; however, I am not blind to the realities of the world. A potential employer might find this essay compelling, could see my experience – educational, professional and personal – as a valuable asset to his or her organization, but might also feel that my appearance is not in line with what that organization is trying to portray. I’ll be perfectly honest here. I have had long hair most of my life. I don’t know why, but it seems to be an extension of my creativity. Having said that, I am not Samson. Cutting my hair does not in any way diminish who I am, what I can do or my value. If offered a job, my hair is on the table, so to speak.

Now more than 1,000 words into this work, I would hope that any potential employer who has read thus far is interested in what I could bring to any organization. It is perhaps serendipitous that George Anders’ article in Forbes Magazine, “That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket,” ran yesterday. I am looking for work; I look forward to the opportunity to apply my “interesting life” in a meaningful way.

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