Bag of crumbs at Tim Hortons

What do you see

What do you see in the photo above? Look very closely before you answer. Really, really closely.

Before I tell you what I see, I need to share a short story with you.

When my son was young, Saturday was grocery-shopping day. My job was to occupy him for the hour or so it took to get groceries. We would immediately head to the bakery counter where they gave us doughnut holes for free.

“Take them, we’re just gonna throw them away!”

Then one Saturday we showed up, headed to the bakery, the clerk handed us each a bag of doughnut holes and asked for $2.00, $1.00 for each bag.

“But they are FREE!” we protested.

The grocery store and every other bakery figured out that there was money in what they were throwing away. Some places even branded their holes as Tim Bits or Munchkins.

As I was waiting for my coffee at a Tim Horton’s drive-through yesterday, I was nibbling on the muffin in the bag. It was crumbling apart as I picked at it. I wondered out loud, “Would someone pay for a bag of crumbs? What does Tim’s do with their muffins that crumble? Throw them away?”

NOW what do you see in the photo above? At worst, you should see a revenue-reclamation product. At best, a branded product.

Basic ad fail

I clicked on a link on the Pure WOW newsletter (don’t judge!) that led me to an ad for a Coach leather briefcase here.

“Wow, I want that,” I thought to myself. So I clicked on the ad, which brought me to this page on After scrolling around a bit on the collection of Father’s Day stuff and not finding the bag, I clicked off. The bag very well have been on the page, but it didn’t look anything like the ad. There was no visual to tie it to the ad that attracted me to the product.

I don’t know how much the bag cost, so I couldn’t even guess what the lost sale cost Coach. A targeted landing page with the same visual elements as the ad would have closed the sale.

Retailers, this is basic merchandising. Don’t build a display and then dump your sold customers into a big ol’ bargain bin. Take them by the hand, directly to the shelf the featured item is on.

Your most impressive accomplishment

As I dig deeper into the world of job-hunting tools on the internet, I ran across the site I’ve known it was there for some time, so this is actually a rediscovery by accident. I was following the fox hole that Secret built and decided to apply for their open Community Manager job.

One of the fields that really caught my eye on the application was to name your greatest accomplishment. I started with “…sold exercise bikes to paralyzed people” but realized I had done much more. Could I rattle them off as a carnival bark?

  • I’ve sold exercise bikes to paralyzed people.
  • I’ve created a community around a thinking, tweeting plate of pastries.
  • I’ve anthropomorphized a dog on the Internet that launched a community and a book.
  • I’ve created a sports event management system from nothing.
  • I’ve written for glory; I’ve hoboed for food.
  • I’ve got more…

Maybe Secret will call me. I doubt it; I’m in Dayton, they are in San Francisco and I want to end up in NYC. There is probably not enough money to make all that happen.

But it was a cool exercise!

The most interesting thing about you — tl;dr

“I chase stray turkeys, catch them and bring them back to their pens,” he answered in the most matter-of-fact way to one of my interview questions. I hired him immediately to assemble and repair bikes, a job he then held for four years, even through the winter. I figured anyone willing to chase down turkeys was willing to learn to do pretty much anything else.

Years later, when I was looking for an artist with some practical skills, I interviewed a young, freshly-minted BFA and asked him what the most interesting thing about him was.

“I worked on a pig farm for six months.”

I hired him on the spot.

Every December, I get the dreaded email from accounting reminding me that the end of the year is coming up, books will be closing, taxes will look like this, etc. Every year, I get that longing to make all of this someone else’s problem by just getting a job.

This year, the PPACA made December worse as I agonized over the health care plan choices, the tax advantages over doing this one versus that, comparing the seemingly endless choices of Gold, Silver…blah, blah, blah.

“If I got a job, all these worries would go away,” I tell myself.

I pull up my usual job-seeking tools; Indeed, LinkedIn, twitter, my résumé… I sigh deeply as I realize that there are many more choices, checkboxes, switches and levers as choosing a healthcare plan. I’m a very talented, smart — dare I say funny — guy with a lot of skills, experiences and a deep body of work. Why are companies not lining up, calling ME? Why do I have to go begging them to interview me, much less hire me?

I start with my résumé. Since I haven’t updated it since last year, I add a few things, edit this line and that so it looks like every other résumé an HR person will see for every other job listing. It is organized into skills, accomplishments, job history, education and awards. It has all the keywords that will be scanned into the ATS (Applicant Tracking System.) I know all this stuff as I used to work in Human Resources.

I know the problem; I look like everyone else. I don’t jump out in any way. But I also know that any wacky way to set myself apart from the pack on my résumé will be met with distain or indifference by the HR department. They don’t like “different” as it indicates an employee who would be hard to manage (guilty!)

I also know my résumé will most likely be scanned into an ATS which ignores formatting and reduces me to a bucket of matchable keywords. I still gotta try.

Since I’m not unemployed and don’t have to land a job (all serious offers will still be considered, though) I have very little to lose by trying some unconventional stuff. I’m experimenting with a tl;dr line at the end of my résumé that sums up the most interesting thing about me.

No replies have yet come back with a burning desire to give me scads of money to do little to nothing every day. A few colleagues have suggested — after taking a long pause — I perhaps work my network a little more and my résumé less.

So far, I have responded to twenty-two job listings, all with my tl;dr résumé and a custom cover letter as they requested. Nineteen days into the new year, I have gotten no replies. I’m still hoping.

We’ll see.

*tl;dr = Too Long; Didn’t Read

You may like the way you look because you may not know any better

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 2.08.34 PM

I remember when my dad taught me how to block a hat; to get that top crease just right. I also remember how he taught me to tie a necktie, to know which side I “dress” in a suit, where the leg breaks and to always make sure the holding stitch in the back flap of a suit coat was removed before wearing it. Today — because of him — I am as comfortable in a suit as I am in a pair of faded jeans and well-worn t-shirt.

I’ve passed these same skills on to my son. At twenty-seven, he still seeks fashion advice from me from time to time, though I suspect he does some fact-checking with his younger sister.
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