Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting A Job

Getting A Job

This article contains suggestions for getting a job,holding on in the meantime, and planning for the future.
There are few things as discouraging as not having a job. It not only attacks the underpinnings of our economic security and peace of mind, but it can have effects on our level of self-esteem too. The current economy has put many hard working, dedicated and long term employees in some very trying circumstances. It has also made decision time a lot harder for upcoming college graduates. This article makes suggestions for different types of current and future workers, so some might be realistic for you to try, while other suggestions are clearly going to be better for others:
1. This May Be An Opportunity
It's been said that sometimes our greatest opportunities come wrapped up inside our most difficult problems. It is obviously very traumatic finding yourself unemployed, but there are some things in life we just can't control. The sooner you can face that, the faster you will be able to re-focus and the quicker you will get to where your future lies. It can make it a lot harder if you really liked your job and are going to miss it, but if you didn't like it, you still may have just stuck with it, thinking you had no other choice, or that there was too much risk in leaving it. Now you have a real chance to try to find something that may be far more satisfying to you and that might allow for personal growth in a way you never thought would be possible.
As a result of the recession, there are going to be hundreds of millions of dollars spent on rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure of roads and bridges. Do you think that would have happened if we hadn't had a recession? When those projects are completed, our roads and bridges will be safer and we'll owe it to the recession. Losing your job might produce a similar silver lining in the long run for you and your family. Move forward with faith in yourself, doing your best and it may happen for you.
2. You Only Need One Job
No matter how high the unemployment rate gets, remember you only need one job. Don't let the statistics get you down. Just keep your eye on the ball. If there are two wage earners in a household, try to find work at different places. A number of workers faced more rapidly deteriorating financial conditions when they both worked at the same place and both loss their incomes and benefits at the same time. It's not a good position to put yourself in.
3. The Mortgage, The Rent, Health Insurance
Mortgage/Rent: Make an appointment to talk with the lender first. See if they are willing to help recast your payments or can provide other temporary relief. You need to convince them that you take your obligations seriously, that you're responsible, and that you want to pay your debts. This can't happen when a property owner ignores letters and notices and does not try to meet to make some accommodations. Appearance can count too. Dress up. It's a business transaction. Give the lender confidence. Keeping good credit is obviously a plus too, although that can be very difficult with the circumstances many folks are facing.
Be very careful about dealing with companies who say they specialize in loan modification. Never give them any money upfront without an attorney's advice, until you check with the Better Business Bureau and state attorney general's office and so forth. Some of them are scams. If you already are in financial difficulty, you don't need to be handing money over to companies that can't or won't do anything for you.
See an attorney about trying to forestall foreclosure. Declaring bankruptcy can be a possibility too, but make sure you have competent legal advice before deciding to do it or not. If you can't afford an attorney, try Legal Aid or the nearest law school's clinic. Call your state representative's office and your congressman's office and see if they can help or have any advice. Also, try county government.
Do not voluntarily move out of the property until a court has ordered you to do so and the sheriff or other officer of the court forces you to leave. The same applies if you are a tenant. Don't go until you are forced to.
If there is an eviction hearing, be sure that you attend and state your case. The judge may be willing to grant an extension. If there are material defects in the property that have gone unrepaired, or the property is lacking vital facilities such as heat or water, and you have notified the landlord of these facts in writing, it can be a defense against eviction in some states. It can help buy you more time.
I am not talking about trying to scam landlords, which some irresponsible tenants make a habit out of, but of being a responsible person just trying to buy more time for yourself, so you can faithfully meet your obligations. You could only be one job away from starting to get back on your feet again.
Health Insurance: Thankfully, Congress has provided for health coverage for children. Check with your state and county government to determine how they can be covered. Unemployed adults may also be able to be covered under federal or state health care programs, so ask your state government about that too.
You cannot risk going without health care. You need to have it through what's suggested above, or to get it privately. If you cannot afford the regular premiums, find coverage with a high deductible such as a $2000 or $5000 deductible. If you had major health care costs, you would be responsible for that amount, which you may be able to dig out from under in the future, but you would avoid a catastrophic expense in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Becoming a full time student (12 credits or more) may also make you eligible for student health insurance through your educational institution. Also, speak with those who sell health insurance or an attorney for further advice.
CNN discussed COBRA health care coverage in a special news feature (3/17/09). It can only be obtained by paying a premium through your employer. If your employer has gone out of business, you cannot get it. If the employer is still in existence, COBRA coverage may be obtained, but it is expensive and only 9% of those eligible for it get it. The premium is $388 a month for individuals and $1068 a month for families, but they can be very large numbers for someone who has lost her/his job.
The steps for obtaining COBRA coverage are to act within a 60 day period, determine what the premium will be (it may be possible to receive a sizable discount on the cost under the federal Stimulus Act) and to sign up. Your Human Resources Office can provide specific details.
4. Stop The Bleeding - Cut Your Expenses To The Bone
You don't know how long you will have to tread water. Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best and stay busy working toward that goal. It's scary not having enough to pay your bills, including your mortgage or rent and car payments, and wondering how you are going to take care of others who are depending on you. The first thing is to slow the bleeding of expenses as best you can by finding any type of work that will bring money in, but that is also flexible enough so if you find something better, you can leave that job easily: jobs such as cleaning houses, cutting lawns, babysitting, selling telephone/cable contract packages, etc. Some money coming in from some kind of work, combined with unemployment compensation and living as frugally as possible can help keep you afloat. Here are some other thoughts:
- Shop differently at the food store. Get extra of whatever is on sale and use coupons to buy it. (Start a coupon exchange where you exchange coupons with other coupon collectors.) Look on the internet, as well as in newspapers and magazines for coupon offers. The goal is to always be eating what you bought on sale without having to pay full price for anything you eat. As you build up your stock, you'll be able to do this more and more.
- If you have a stock of things in the pantry, or frozen food that you've been keeping, now's the time to live off the fat of the land for a while. Food banks are also a possibility, but they have been hard hit by the crisis too. Try to minimize store trips. The more trips you make, the more you're likely to spend. Shop after you've already eaten. Shoppers buy more when they are hungry.
- Don't put anything on charge cards unless there is a desperate need to do so. You don't need interest on top of already existing debt. If you are in a bind with credit card debt, get credit counseling from your county or state government to help restructure and reduce your debt load. Be very wary of any offers that say they can eliminate your debt, particularly things you see on the internet.
- Make do with what you have. Keep the old New England proverb of thrift in mind: "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without". If you have to buy something, try used clothing or thrift stores, particularly those in or near good neighborhoods. I bought a used suit at one about five years ago for $15. It was a name brand suit that I had altered for about $20. I still wear it and it still looks good (I think). Other stores have similar bargains. You just have to be willing to do some hunting.
- Put the kids to work. If you have children who are old enough to work, explain the situation to them, and tell them you need them to help. When times are difficult, everyone should pitch it. It can also help teach children realistic facts of life that will encourage them to continue their education until they get their four year degree or better, or obtain training in a field that is in demand. (It's the most important thing I tell my college students each semester.) Younger children who can't work outside the home, can still help in it by folding clothes, making their beds, straightening up and the like. You need to delegate to keep the house looking good, while you focus your efforts on high order priorities.
- Cut your cell phone bill. Some carriers with basic service, such as are as low as $20 a month. Switch to basic cable and drop the other cable upgrades to save too.
- See if you can make it with one car or take public transportation. In some states, it can mean a substantial savings in auto insurance.
- Pack your lunch. $5 a day for lunch, plus morning coffee, amounts to about $150 a month.
- Stop smoking: Your health will improve, and your car and your home will smell better. It will also eliminate second hand smoke that affects others. If a household smokes two packs a day at $6 a pack, that $12 a day x 365 days in a year for a total of $4380. That could come in mighty handy for someone who has lost his/her job. You'll have a better chance of living long enough to see the light on the other side of the mountain too because you will probably increase your life expectancy also if you quit.
- Free College Tuition: Paying college tuition for your college students can be very untimely if it is hitting you when you're facing an economic downturn in your household. One thing to try is to make your work perform double duty. Many colleges offer free tuition to dependents of employees, so if you have secretarial skills or have the necessary license to be a boiler operator at a college for example, you get paid to work and your children go to school tuition free. Just check first to make sure that is one of the benefits offered at the college you're looking into. You and your spouse may also take courses there too and that can lead to an inexpensive way to partially finance training and education to make a career change.
- Consider selling your home, if you can, and move to an apartment or move in with relatives or friends so you can share expenses. It doesn't have to be for life. You're just trying to get over a rough spot.
- Renting your home is also an option, but renting has problems of its own that you might not need to deal with on top of what you are already facing. If you do decide to rent, be scrupulously careful whom you rent to. Get a credit check, as much of a security deposit as you can by law, and references --- and not just from a prospective tenant's current landlord. They might give their tenants a good reference just so they can get rid of them, so always try to get references from current and former landlords.
5. Watch Your Thinking and Your Self-Esteem
As hard as things may be, you have to try to maintain a clear head. Panic, continued crying, sleeplessness,worry, and getting down on yourself are only going to negatively affect your ability to think clearly. Just say to yourself "Look, I've got a real problem here,but nothing is going to solve it except staying positive and trying to take sensible steps in the right direction." Be assured you are reading someone who understands these things. I read a great biblical quote that can help you keep proper perspective:
"You worry all day and what do you have to show for it?"
Positive self-help reading can also make a big difference in keeping your attitude where it should be. I wrote another article called "Be Happy 101". Just search for it under that title and my name (Danks). It will provide you with all the reading you can use to get yourself into the proper frame of mind.
Remember that you are not your job. You are not your former job title either, you are a worthwhile person, the same worthwhile person whether you are employed or not or have a lower level of employment than you did before. You should think of yourself as "Jack or Jill the worthwhile person." You can always be that, no matter what your economic circumstances are.
No matter what your circumstances are, try to do things to help other people, even small things. That gives us "The Power" - the power to know that we still have the ability to make a positive difference in the world. That not only helps others, but helps us raise our own level of self-esteem too. It is one of the surer roads to happiness.That's the basic premise of my recent book, Your Unfinished Life, that's mentioned at the end of this article.
6. Finding Work
- The Internet: Check, state employment services, private employment services and other internet job sites. Just put "getting a job" into the search box and you will find many job related sites and a huge amount of job huning advice. Don't just search your geographic area. Search under job title or category too and see where other openings might be in your field. You may have to move to stabilize yourself again. In any case, it gives you a better view of the employment landscape in the region and throughout the country.
- Network: Let people know about your situation and your need to find employment. There is nothing to be ashamed of. What has happened to you can happen to just about anybody, even though they might not think it can. My father used to say that"We're all useful, but we're not necessary." A lot of people who thought so, have found out otherwise. Give others an opportunity to help you. If you are a member of a church congregation, let them know, as well as family, friends, and acquaintances. Anyone in sales can tell you that sometime a lead comes from the most unexpected places. E-mail to your e-mail list too, no matter where the recipient is located.
We can't always get help, but we can always give it, no matter how challenging our own situation might be. In the process of looking for work for yourself, you might discover information that can help someone else you know. We always still have "The Power", no matter how bad things might be for us. We just have to let ourselves use it. In doing so, we raise our own self-esteem, knowing we have done something good. That confidence boost can make a difference in our own efforts.
- Career and Job Fairs: These are held at colleges and at large venues advertised in major Sunday newspaper employment sections. There are also fairs for those in certain specialties, such as health care or computers.
There are also job fairs for minority hiring. If you are a minority person, recognize that companies have these fairs because they are looking to provide an appropriate minority representation in their work force. That can work to your advantage if your qualifications are otherwise good.
You might also determine if you would qualify for "minority status". The law provides specific definitions. It does not necessarily mean that someone has to be a minority only in the publicly viewed, traditional sense. Someone may be enough of a minority to qualify under the definition. There is nothing bogus about this. If the law says that someone qualifies as a minority because of their background, then they are one. An attorney, legal services or a human resources professional can provide advice to you in this area.
- Volunteer: If you can't find a job that pays, look for a place to volunteer where they might be likely to have a paying opening in the near future. The same with part-time work. Get your foot in the door, show them how good of worker you are and build up a group of people who will speak well of the quality of your work, your conscientiousness and punctuality. You can back into a job this way. Don't think the way everyone else thinks. 1000 people don't always have to go rushing trying to get one of 35 available jobs, as was the case recently with firefighting jobs in Miami. Think differently and try some different strategies.
- Try to get on the substitute teacher list for area school districts. (In my state, it requires a minimum of sixty college credits.) Once you get approved, when you're called by the coordinator in the morning, you want to always do what I call "a reverse Nancy Reagan" - just say yes! The more you keep saying yes, the more you're going to get called. If you were a coordinator, calling all around at 6AM in the morning to find a substitute teacher, aren't you going to call the person who always says yes first and make your life easier? This can give you inroads and insights into a school district that could lead to a job for you or your loved one as a teacher, teacher's aide or other position later. You are never in a better position than you are being on the inside of an organization to hear what is coming up or to see job postings internally.
- Support Groups: Churches and other organizations run support groups for unemployed workers. This can not only provide useful counseling advice, but can generate information from other participants that can benefit you.
- Outplacement Services: If your company provides services to help find a new job, that's something to take advantage of too. Use the knowledge of experienced professionals who have seen situations like yours many times before.
7. Assess Your Situation and Act Accordingly
Is there a chance you might get called backed to your company? Will you be able to find work in the same industry in your area or elsewhere? Are other suitable jobs available in your area? If you think that there is hope on any of these fronts, you may be better trying to stay where you are. Most people have family and friends in their area and they comprise an important support network in times of stress. They can also serve as a network of contacts that can lead you to another job. You don't have that working for you if you move to a new area where you have to make an adjustment, not knowing anyone on top of it. But if things look grim where you are, you need to consider some other choices:
- Have the major breadwinner move and keep the family in place. This way, the rest of the family can retain some degree of normality, the children can stay in the same schools and there isn't any culture or geographic shock caused by moving to another area, to say nothing of the hassle of moving. Perhaps driving 3-4 hours may produce some better opportunities or even commuting back and forth on weekends from greater distances. It's obviously not ideal, but as things improve in your home area, you can keep looking for something closer. If the new more distant job turns out to be a winner, you can move in an organized manner later to something better.
- Relocate: To take advantage of more distant opportunities, go where the work is. Naturally, this may involve uprooting others and having children attend new schools, but sometimes things are so bad in an area, and so many workers are out of work, moving can help stabilize you sooner with a regular income, rather than trying to stay and hang on where you are. You never know, it may even turn out to be a lot better in many ways, particularly if you move to an area that's not as expensive.
Try to make a positive adventure out of it. Ask yourself where you'd like to go if you could, then investigate opportunities there. My daughter and son-in-law, who are in their forties, spent all their lives in Southern New Jersey, near Philadelphia. They had talked for a while about the rising rents and traffic and were thinking about moving - none of which I was aware of. One day my daughter called and said she had something to tell me. She said, "Dad, we're going to move to Montana." That's a long way from New Jersey, but she said they had talked about it and felt good about going. If it was going to be good for them, I was all for it. They're out there now and are very happy with their move and living a more inexpensive lifestyle too. Is there any place you've thought about moving to? Maybe now is the time. Do some investigation, check out the job market, make some phone calls, make an exploratory trip and see what happens. If you are a member of a church denomination that has a church in the prospective area, check through them too to try to get the lay of the land.
CNN reported (3/17/09) that the best states to find jobs were Washington (biotech and health care),Nevada(health care), Arizona(health care), Colorado(health care),Florida,(health care), California, Texas(oil and gas), Wyoming, and Massachusetts/New York (education).
Obviously, you should re-check this bcause the situation may have changed since I wrote this. Federal government jobs, except for the US Postal Service, and collections agencies were also mentioned. I can hear some of the people in these states saying that things aren't too good there either. Not all parts of all states, or all sectors of employment, have openings. It is important to investigate before packing the car and to send a scout on ahead to check things out locally before considering a move.
8. Make A Smart Move and Re-Train If You Have To
Your goal should be to find a job in a field you will enjoy, with decent pay and benefits, and one that is not readily outsourceable. You don't want to get a job, then lose it because it got exported. Any work that can be done more cheaply outside the US, or that can be digitized, should be viewed with caution. You don't want to have to go through being unemployed again. Naturally if you need a job now, take it, but keep your eye out for something more secure, with better long term prospects.
If you are in an industry that doesn't show much promise for the future, make sure your next move is to a field that offers more long term security. I've listed a number of career fields below that, at this time, show promise for the future. All of these aren't going to be suitable for everyone. Some may be more of an option for college students. While these fields show promise on a national level, check locally to see what the demand is in your own area. There can be regional variations.
- Registered Nurse: This is not just an occupation for women. More men are going into nursing and there is likely to be a continuing need for nurses in the future. It is also a portable skill. Registered nurses can find work in just about any state. Getting into a nursing program may not be easy, but investigate area nursing schools associated with hospitals and community colleges. It might not take as long as you think either. Many nursing programs are two year programs, but a university hospital in Philadelphia just announced a program where the holder of a bachelor's degree could quality to become a nurse through an 11 month program. Check for similar offerings in your area.
If you are a non traditional sex as an applicant, or for a position, it may work to your advantage, so think broadly. It might help. Nursing programs might want to have more male admissions. Engineering and technical programs might be seeking more females.
- Health Care Occupations: Physical therapy, radiology technician,medical records,etc. There's going to be continuing demand for many health care occupations. Starting in 2011, 10,000 people a day will be retiring for the following twenty years. Most of those people are going to need health care in their later years. See what's in demand in your area. Check with your local hospitals and health care professionals to get ideas for what health care fields need people.
- Pharmacist: A very solid occupation in demand that pays well. To gain more insight, train as a pharmacy tech.
- Elementary and High School Teaching: Look toward areas in demand such as special education, mathematics and the sciences. Areas like English and history may be something you might enjoy more, but the competition for such jobs is fierce. Find out what school districts need. Colleges can tell you what you need to do to get certified to teach.
- Librarian: Professional librarians are not "book shelvers". That's done by student workers, volunteers or other library employees. Librarians today are information specialists. If you have computer skills, that can also be a plus. For the longer term, it's beneficial not to just get a Bachelor's degree in Library Science, but an MLS (Master of Library Science) too.
- Paralegal: Paralegals are "in between" a legal secretary and an attorney. They can perform functions attorneys perform, such as interviewing clients and preparing documents, but can't represent clients in court as an attorney can. Community colleges have paralegal programs that can be completed in a reasonable time. There will, in my opinion, be a continuing need for paralegals in the future. Law firms have cut down on the number of attorney hires. Some firms find it more economical to hire paralegals to perform certain functions, instead of paying an attorney. When businesses can save money, they are usually going to do it. While it is not essential to do so, attending a program with American Bar Association (ABA) approval is a plus. Ask an attorneys in your area for advice about it.
- Dental Hygienist /Dental Assistants The hours are very flexible and the pay is good. Don't forget to brush and floss too. (They made me say it.)
- Computers and Information Technology: Software Design and Development, Networking, Computer Maintenance. Seek the guidance of college professors, and from those working in the field, to advise you which areas to enter and which areas to stay away from. Some computer work is being outsourced and you don't want to get into those areas.
- Accounting: The long term goal would be to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Laser Technology,Photonics and Other High Tech Occupations: Community colleges can be a good source of information. Their programs are also usually far cheaper than those of private technical schools. Don't take on some huge loan if you don't have to.
- Federal and State Government: Jobs can get cut here too, but government jobs often have civil service protection and if you are a veteran, you get a veteran's preference on tests for positions. Lists of such positions are readily available through your state, local libraries and the internet. The CIA is advertising for good candidates, particularly if you are knowledgeable in languages in need, such as Arabic. The FBI traditionally has a need for attorneys and accountants.
If you can speak a foreign language, it can be a great assist in finding a job. It helps separate you from the rest of the pack. Just determine what employers would be most likely to be able to use your language skill. If you speak French or Italian for example, contact companies from those countries doing business in the US. Spanish is a big plus with many companies. Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the country. Companies need to be able to communicate effectively with this growing customer base.
- Military Service: The military makes cuts too, but they are also recruiting hard.
-Sales: There is no shortgage of people in sales, but companies are always looking for people who can help make a difference. If you can sell, you will always be able to find a home. Don't pick a field where people would cut back in a recession, e.g., auto sales, appliances, furniture, etc. Go for something that stays more steady in any economy. Obviously, it's better to obtain a position that pays a salary plus benefits and offers commission too. Some sales positions are straight commission only with no benefits. The good news with those is that your income is "unlimited". The bad news is that if you don't sell, you have no income.
Keep your eye on internet news on AOL, Yahoo and other websites, and in magazines, for lists of hot jobs, as they can change from time to time and from region to region.
9. Career Areas To Avoid
This is purely my take on this, but I would avoid areas such as: - Banking: (Continued consolidation eliminates jobs and the financial condition of a number of banks is not great. Additionally, banks don't pay particularly well.)
- Any Lower Level Manufacturing: High tech manufactuing may be fine, but anything at a lower level is consistently threatened by having the work done in countries with cheaper labor.
- Auto Industry: The comeback road will be difficult enough for those already formerly involved with the industry. The key for us is to make more cars with China and India here, putting our workers to work making them. We can compete on quality, but price is something else.
- Outsourceable Work: Any work that can be outsourced to other countries to be done more cheaply, including work that can be digitized. That's why jobs that require physical presence such as nursing, health care occupations and teaching are doubly good.
- Discretionary Spending Occupations: In times of economic trouble, spending for certain things comes to a halt quickly, such as for furniture, recreational vehicles and travel and leisure industries. While they can do well in a good economy, in a downturn they can be one of the first to be hit and to shed jobs.
10. Massive Re-Training and Re-Education
The need for this should have been foreseen and acted upon long ago. Was there anyone in Michigan, Delaware and many other auto states who couldn't see that the auto industry was headed for trouble, even before the recession set in and took matters from bad to worse. I see no realistic way that many of the laid off auto workers will be able to work for their company again, or even in the industry.
The best solution is to re-train for something that is going to be here for the future in terms of service jobs, high tech jobs and others. Re-training is difficult, particularly after many workers have spent decades in another industry, but doing it is going to prepare for a more secure employment future.
The federal government and colleges should have taken a far greater lead toward re-training a decade ago. It could have helped in minimizing today's current crisis. The sooner there is a recognition that it has to be done, and that action is taken to make it happen by the federal and state government, colleges and workers, the sooner the economy is going to recover. Determine where the future is and start re-training for it now.
11. Other Thoughts
- Do Work That Leads To Something Else: Working at a gas station may bring in some income, but it is not going to lead to anything. Working at Wal-Mart or UPS however might lead to an Assistant Manager position, on up. (I would only work in retailing if you think it could lead to something better in the company that pays better than most retailing jobs do. Retailing at lower levels offers notoriously poor pay.)
- Consider Getting A Real Estate License - This is an option for someone who does not have a desperate need for current income, but has the time to try to prepare for a future opportunity. This is not likely to be an immediate source of income. The market is slow, or dead, in many areas. It will come back eventually and when it does, you will have gained experience and be ready to handle an onslaught of buyers and sellers. This is not going to happen any time soon, but when it does you want to be licensed and ready to go, not sitting in a crowded real estate school wishing you had a license. Getting a real estate license should not interfere with getting a college degree however, or with working at something more financially lucrative now.
-Ask people for advice and help. It's not all going to be good, but you will probably make better decisions when cooler heads can give you some input to assist your thinking. Some networking like this can also lead to a job. Some of the people you want to ask for advice are those who are in a position to hire you or to recommend you to others.
-"I Don't Need Benefits" - If you are unemployed and seeking work, and already have benefits through someone else, make sure you tell potential employers that you don't need them. It can make a difference with some employers. Naturally, any time you can find a job with benefits, all the better.
- Borrow Money: I put this at the bottom of the list because it's something most people don't want to do, but if you really need money, borrow it from someone who will lend it to you. For anyone reading this who can do the lending, your ability to be there when someone really needs a hand up can make all the difference to a family or an individual trying to get over a rough spot.
12. Wish Upon A Hero
An outstanding way to find some help and to get some advice is through the website This site, featured on the ABC Evening News provides a convenient way for wishers, and grantors of wishes, to connect. If you use this site, make it as easy as you can for a hero to help you. Use a strong headline, include a photo related to your expressed need, get a PayPal account and put a "DONATE" button under your request, and make your request reasonable. Objects can be requested, as well as requests for money. It's better to have a number of separate smaller, well-defined requests than it is to ask for many things in the same request that entail a large expenditure. The use of the site is free.
I'm sure that many of the situations of readers of this article are very dire, but after you read some of the wishes on this site, it can make us grateful for what we still do have. If there was ever a demonstrable example of "I complained because I had no shoes, then I saw a man who had no feet", this is it.
13. Barter
If you don't have the money to buy goods and services you need, try proposing a barter. Does someone need to go to the dentist? Maybe it can be exchanged for lawn cutting and landscaping services or electrical work. Not everyone is going to want to do it, but you only need one taker. Think of what services you can provide: doing odd jobs, secretarial services, plumbing, construction or brickwork, tutoring, etc. Use the skills you have to get some of the things you need. You don't have to pay for everything.
14. Maybe You Can Help
President Obama correctly noted in his first prime time news conference that our economic problems are so great, that only government is large enough to make a substantial impact on them.
What has not been said however, is that there are many people who are not really affected that much by this downturn, who still have resources, a home, purchasing power and money in the bank and in other investments. Such people are also powerful resources to help the nation at this time by helping a neighbor or family member with a loan or by purchasing something now that they were planning to buy soon anyway like a new car, a home addition, vacation, new furniture, television or another appliance. If someone can't find a good deal now, they'll never find one. If those who have resources used them to give a little bump to the economy, it could help people keep working and others from being laid off.

Remember, you are never alone in your struggles. If you believe in prayer, it can help in difficult times like this. Prayer is not necessarily the solution to our economic problems, but something that can help give us the strength to get through tough times.

15. You Are Never Alone, Nor Should You Be

Whether you have religious belief or not, if you need support, speak to trusted family members, friends and professionals, and caring people on the internet who can help give you the support you need to make it through. Nothing lasts forever in life. That's a given.
16. Makes Changes If You Have To
If what you've tried so far isn't working, you need to try something else. If you keep doing the same things, you'll keep getting the same result. Talk with others and read to get inspiration. Basic self-help reading is important too to keep your self-confidence and attitude pointed in a positive direction.
17. Get Out Of The House
Don't stay home either. Get out of the house and meet as many people as you can. You may have "chance meetings" with people who can be a help to you. That can't happen if you're inside all the time. Go to the movies, take a walk in the park, change your scenery. It helps improve perspective too.
Just keep moving forward step by step, trying to make yourself better today than you were yesterday and the future can start to look bright again.

Larry Danks is the author of Your Unfinished Life: The Classic and Timeless Guide To Finding Happiness and Success Through Kindness available through (Discount Price: $13.45), Barnes and Noble,Books-A-Million, and all major booksellers. Samples from each chapter and reviews of the book are available by visiting: Larry Danks is an Assistant Professor of Business at Camden County College in Southern New Jersey.

Selling A Book

Selling A Book

1.Determine Your Market: For my book, I see it as readers 35- 65, public libraries, character and values courses for students, discussion groups

2. Books to Help You:
The Self-Publishing Manual –Dan Poynter
1001 Ways To Market Your Books - John Kremer
Sell Your Book on Amazon – Brent Sampson
Plug Your Book – Steve Weber

3. Things To Do

  • – Go to: Publisher>General Trade> Add or Update Your Information in “Books in Print”. List your book information as early as possible.
  • News Releases – Send to newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and include in your package mailings, along with a flyer, bookcards, etc.
  • – Amazon is the world’s largest seller of books.
  • Amazon Advantage –Sell books directly through Amazon Advantage (Click all the way down at the bottom of the Amazon home page to sign up). They will tell you how many books to ship to them initially and subsequently for re-orders.
    Set up to supply them through "Lightning Source". They will order the books they need to fill orders without any involvement from you. They are supplied quickly. (You need to tell them you will be doing this.)
  • Your job is to pull orders through the system with your own promotion. The better the book sells, the more they will promote it.
  • Amazon "Search Inside The Book" – Sign up for it. Readers want samples.
  • Amazon "Buy X, Get Y Program": For $750 for a month, you can have your book paired with a selected book ranked in the top 2000 or so, where both books can be obtained at a discounted price. (Make sure the cost of both added together is over $25 so the buyer qualifies for free shipping.) It is not worth it. For more, they will pair you with a book in the top 1000.
  • Build Your Amazon page - Working with Amazon is not as easy as it should be. It is not easy to contact the right person and very difficult to speak to anyone. You just have to muck through it. You create your own book page, author profile, blog, submit editorial reviews, try to stimulate customer reviews, do book reviews of other books, create book lists, etc. It is very time consuming. When you request people to do book reviews for you, they must submit them themselves. You can’t do it for them. With Amazon, you’re very much on your own and not infrequently have difficulty getting answers to questions.
  • Getting Reviews – Good reviews can’t hurt, although they don’t guarantee sales. You want five star reviews.
  • Review My Amazon Page:>Books>Your Unfinished Life
  • Barnes and Noble – Set yourself up with them also. You send reviews to them and they will post them. Go to “Publisher and Author Guidelines” at the bottom of their home page. They are not always efficient in listing what you send, but at least they usually do it.
  • Borders, Books-A-Million, Powell Books - List your book information with them.
  • (Down at bottom, click on “Information for Publishers and Authors”, then on Google Books Partner Program: Promote your books on Google for free. You provide book information and the front cover to Google and they list your book and make it available through links to major vendors. It’s a no brainer.
  • Shows book availability at libraries and also has ordering link to your book from major retailers
  • Create A Website for Your Book – (about $120 a year includes many pages and e-mail boxes.) There are cheaper ones, but I have found them good to use. Get the stats package also, so you can see how many hits you are getting and where they are coming from. Drive people to the site through other promotion such as book cards and other promotional items, articles, links from other sites (usually reciprocal links which you should select carefully). The idea is to increase your page rank on Google and Yahoo. You can pay to be listed, but I wouldn’t do it unless you have to.
    - Web Page Optimization is a topic unto itself. Try to think of all the search terms that would be used related to your book, then try to increase your ranking on that term on major search engines. After you think you have thought of everything you could, go to or similar sites. You will get many more suggestions there. The top search terms are highly competitive as you might expect.
    - Paying for keywords: You register with sites where you can bid for keyword placement, such as Google Adwords, Yahoo Marketing and others. The best terms are usually too expensive, so you need to try some of the less popular ones. Based upon trials I conducted, the keywords will cost you more that what you can typically make on most books.
  • Write Articles- Write a related or unrelated article. At the end you can mention yourself and that you are the author of: (Title of your book), a brief description of it and where it can be purchased:
    - One of the largest article publishing sites. Free, but you have to wait for article review before the article gets posted. It normally takes about a week. -Author' A very interesting site to visit. There is an annual fee, but they publish your content almost instantly. You can submit information on your book, submit articles, post events. Contains other useful features.
  • Book Reviews – Give a copy of your book or proof to friends and ask them if they would review it on for you. Reviews can and should appear in advance of the book’s publication date .
  • Ask authors whose books you have reviewed on Amazon if they would be willing to review yours. I reviewed books positively because I liked them, not because I had any future expectations. I was fortunate enough get two very nice reviews from noted authors. Anyone who is well known in the field you are writing in would also be good to ask. These can also be used for cover testimonials if you get them enough time in advance.
  • Kirkus Reviews – A recognized reviewer of books for libraries. Send them a copy of the book with accompanying information and they may review it. Pay them $400 like I did and they will review it under their “Kirkus Discoveries” Program. Once you get it, you should not list it as Kirkus Reviews. I’m pretty sure most readers, except librarians, don’t make the distinction. They gave the book a nice review.
  • Reader Views – They review for $75. I got a good review from it.
  • AllbooksReviews – $50. They review and send it to Barnes and Noble and others.
  • Local Media – I sent two different books to our regional newspaper. They reviewed both of them.
  • Sending Sample Copies of Books
    Advice books suggest addressing padded book envelopes in advance so you can send bound galley proofs or completed copies to media, review services and others as soon as the book or galley proof is available. Some sources will not review books unless they are received well in advance of the publication date. For this reason, list the publication date out into the future. No one will know or care if you have “back of room sales” prior to that date, but once some reviewers see that the book is available for public sale, they won’t review it. (This can easily be checked if they look on Amazon and B&N and see that you have it for sale before the publication date.)
    - Be more selective in sending out sample copies than I’ve been. Often, they either get dumped or someone takes it and lists it for sale on Amazon or other sites and they become competitors for your books.
    - Read each review source's rules and get addresses for whom you might send books to in Dan Poynter’s book and others. I would send one to:
    Publishers Weekly – No self-published books
    Library Journal
    Foreword Magazine
    Kirkus Reviews or Kirkus Discoveries
    Your Local Newspaper – (Sending a review copy to lrge national newspapers, like The NY Times or the LA Times, or to Oprah is probably a waste. Many will only review books from major publishers. Many others do not review books any more.
    Choice – Division of the ALA
    Midwest Book Reviews – They gave me a nice review which I did not pay for. When they send you a review, they do request that you send them some stamps in return which helps them with their costs.
    Other than these, I would write first, include promotional information about your book and promotional plans, and ask them if they would like to receive a review copy of the book when you send it write on the mailing envelope “ Review Copy You Requested”
  • Book Distributors:
    Ingram, Baker and Taylor – Not reviewers, but major wholesalers to the trade and to libraries. Ingram also owns "Lightning Source" so if you get to be part of that program, they should have you listed. Baker and Taylor – you need to keep pecking away. Submit to other distributors as you go along, but they are the big two.
    Quality Books – Not a reviewer, but a representative who can sell your book to libraries. ( Check with them first to see if they would be interested in a title like yours.
  • Stamping Books
    Books often advise that you stamp review copies with “Review Copy Only. Not For Resale”, which I did. In retrospect, it’s just better to send the book. It looks gamey and defaces the book and also implies that you don’t trust the recipient to do the right thing with it. Stamping it also does not stop second hand booksellers from selling the book, nor does it deter most buyers from buying it. When in doubt, send a review copy. It is the best and cheapest form of promotion you can get.
  • Other Promotional Items
    - Pencils: Probably a waste of money.
    - Bookcards: Cheaper than brochures. Use business size cards with book and website information on them as handouts to lead people to your website or vendors. The use of a calendar or other useful information on the other side gives you a reason to give the card to someone and gives them a reason to hold on to it. It is impossible to gauge the usefulness of them, but it gets the book’s name out there fairly cheaply. (123 Many varieties of cards to choose from.
    - Flyers: Printed these to send in a Cooperative Library Mailing though IBPA (International Book Publishers Assn. – Membership about $125 a year. Had the flyers printed in Texas, then shipped to California for mailing.) I don’t believe either of these were worth it for me, although IBPA sponsors events, special mailings and provides a periodic publication to help small publishers. (Print for flyers. Kim Townsend - A gem who’s as helpful as anyone could be, with the patience of a saint.)
  • Envelopes - (Intuit Printing – 800-548-0289)
  • E-mail Signatures - Put them at the bottom of all the e-mail you send:

Best wishes,
Lawrence J.Danks
Author of: Your Unfinished Life (ISBN 978-0-615-24207-1)
Find happiness, personal fulfillment,increased self-esteem and peace of mind
Features chapter samples, positive reviews, author interview and message
Available through:, Barnes&,all leading booksellers

  • Blogs – Good for those who know how to use them well. Consider putting the whole book in a blog, chapter by chapter. (If you’re trying to help or inspire people, what difference does it make if they buy the book or not. Some authors have said that it definitely helped their book sales.)
  • Social Websites – Twitter, Facebook, My Space, etc. Obviously if you can create a viral buzz about your book with tweets or a video, it can help.
  • Post Office Box – Wait and see if you really need it. I didn’t.
  • Personal Appearances – Do book seminars, not book signings. These require preparation and are labor intensive. It is not something I am willing to do a lot of. If you want to sell books however, you need to be willing to do more of it than I’m likely to do.
  • Try to do book singings at local bookstores. An author who was doing one told me it doesn’t sell many books, but it may get you on the shelf in the bookstore which may help in the long run. Publishers set these up for authors willing to do them. There are more than 800 B&N stores. Even if they had just had two books in each one, that’s over 1500 books. It’s not easy getting on the shelves though. You have to demonstrate by previous sales and demand that you belong there.
  • Sell cases, not books - churches, organizations, individuals, businesses. Offer them as source of fundraising.

Let Your Unfinished Life help you find happiness. Many readers have told me they found it inspiring and helpful to their lives. Try it yourself or give a copy to a friend who could use more happiness in their life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Writing A Book

Writing A Book

Your Unfinished Life: The Classic and Timeless Guide to Finding Happiness and Success Through Kindness is my fifth book. As in writing any book, you learn more each time you do one. I'm sure there are many current writers out there, as well as many others who have thought about doing a book. The purpose of this post is to share some of what I've learned so that perhaps it might help and encourage you.

Writing a book is the easy part - and that’s not too easy. Selling it is the hard part. Author Hugh McLeod expresses a truism in his “The Sex and Cash Theory” (Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys To Creativity):

“The creative person has two kinds of jobs – One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task at hand covers both bases, but not often.”

So it's important to enjoy what you are doing and to be able to derive value from things other than monetary rewards, or even monetarily breaking even, because more often than not, that's not going to happen, not at least without a lot of continuing hard work on your part. Selling books is like riding a bike. When you stop pedaling, you fall down.

This blog expresses what my experience in writing books has been. Writing is work, but it's also great fun and very rewarding, if you are inspired by your subject and want to share your knowledge, create an atmosphere or do whatever else is important to you. I certainly am no great success at selling books, but I think there is much to be learned on what not to do, as well as what to do, and I'll be covering that next time.

This blog is targeted toward writing non-fiction, although much of it will be applicable to writing fiction too. Here are some thoughts I hope may help you:

  • Write about what interests you - what you think will help, inspire or educate, not what “will sell”. Of course, if you can pull both of them off at the same time, all the better. It’s important to have psychic income from what you do. That way even if you don’t make much money, or any money, you will still feel as if you have done something worthwhile and will be leaving a legacy that can help others long after you’ve gone ahead.
  • Avoiding Regrets – From Larry King’s My Remarkable Journey:
    One of his eight marriages was to Sharon: “Sharon’s father was an amateur baseball player and he was pretty good. But he went into the Marines, and afterward his father made him take a job in the post office. One time, I took him to an Orioles game. We were on the field during batting practice, standing behind the cage, watching the players hit. It was a typical scene you see year after year, game after game. But as I turned toward Sharon’s father, I saw tears running down his face. I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He said, ‘I should have tried.’ I’ll never forget that. I may have regrets. But one thing I’ll never have to say is I wish I had taken the risk.”

    Keep that in mind, whether you’re thinking about writing a book, starting to paint, traveling or something else you'd like to do. What you want to avoid is “The Longest Rock” – sitting in a rocking chair when you’re 79, wishing you had done something, but knowing that it’s too late to do anything about it now. Discipline yourself to do what you need to do. At least you'll know you tried.
  • Real Rewards – “The more you practice your craft, the less you confuse worldly rewards with spiritual rewards, and vice versa. Even if your path never makes money or furthers your career, that’s still worth a ton.” (McLeod) Writing Your Unfinished Life was a very important goal for me for that reason. I wanted to try to help readers find more happiness in their own lives by creating more in the lives of others, not only now, but long into the future. Some of my high school classmates told me they found my book "inspiring". It was very humbling to hear that from people who "knew me when". I've gotten some very nice editorial and buyer reviews on too, so I think the book has value. So whether I sell 5000 copies or 50,000, I can always have the spiritual satisfaction that the project was worthwhile.
  • Start file folders - Outline major topics of your subject, e.g., Real Estate Principles, then put them in what you think is a logical order: Real Estate Basics, Property Interests, Model Real Estate Transaction, Contracts (Listings, Offers, Agreements of Sale), Financing and Mortgages, etc. Use these as a working Table of Contents. Put anything you find relevant in the appropriate folder. Once you feel as if you’ve collected enough to get started, start writing. Much of it comes to you as you work along.
  • Read other books in the field - Provides a broad outline for what you’re going to do and serves as research. I read about fifteen books on happiness and kindness in preparation for writing Your Unfinished Life. Doing your research reading helps ensure you don’t overlook anything major in your book. It also provides quotable information you can use.
  • Get Started - Start in any section if you have to. Just get going and start writing.
  • Title – Don’t worry about it or waste time trying to think of one. Just give it a working title. Just like "Field of Dreams", start writing and it will come.
  • Write as timelessly as possible - Don’t date the book too soon by including highly contemporaneous material. Many times this can't be helped, but it's something to keep in mind.
  • Writing is a perfect example of “flow” - a concept developed by Mihail Csiksentmihali. A "flow state" can be created through a worthwhile exercise of time in pursuit of something higher than ourselves,where sense of time is lost. If you "don't know where the time went" when you were writing, you're there.
  • Find your best time to write - morning, later at night, during the night. Then use bonus times: vacations, breaks, or times when you can’t get to sleep or wake up during the night.
  • Explain what you’re doing, and how you need to do it, to your significant other - Having her/his cooperation helps. Then be considerate and try to write when it’s less likely to cause interference with daily life - when the other person is out,otherwise occupied or asleep. You still want to have a life.
  • “How did you ever write a book?” is not an infrequent question writers get. The simple answer is that you have to keep sitting your butt in the chair and keep typing until you’re done. There isn’t any easy way. It takes focus and discipline. If you are always “very busy” or can’t find a time to write fairly regularly, it’s not going to happen. It takes commitment and belief in your subject. We seem to usually find time to do what we really want to do, no matter how busy we are. You just have to decide if writing is one of your priorities or if it isn’t.
  • Use up to date computer programs and equipment - It may seem romantic to type a book on a typewriter like Hemingway, but it’s highly inefficient. Decide whether you’re longing for yesteryear or want to get something done with reasonable efficiency.
  • When you get a thought, write it down or type it in somewhere immediately - Don’t tell yourself you’ll add it later. I forgotten many good thoughts like that - permanently. When you think of it, write it down somewhere.
  • Getting Stuck - Can’t seem to write anything today? Find something else to do related to the book, go out and pull weeds, go to the movies, go for a walk. Just do something else. It’s ok. It happens. Even the best hiters get into slumps. As long as you still have the skills, it will come back and you'll get back on base again.
  • Use quotations in you writing - It provides pithy sources of time-tested wisdom and augments your work by using the thoughts of recognized experts. Your Unfinished Life contains dozens of quotations that have greatly added to the book's value and support its premises.
  • Save regularly - Set up to do it automatically or do it every fifteen minutes or so. Make it a habit to always hit “Save” anytime you have to get up for anything. If you hit the wrong key or kick out the plug, you can lose hours of work. You might think that you can just do it again, but you will never get it back as completely as you had it before. Trust me, it is very frustrating and “epithetic”. Remember: Better to save than to add to the lexicon of lurid expression.
  • Don't forget CTRL-Z - This is a very useful "restore" key. Sometimes you do something inadvertently and stuff disappears, sometimes lots of it. Just stop for a minute. Don't type anything else, because if you do the command won't work. After a flub, hold down the CTRL key and push "Z" at the same time and your material will be restored.
  • Copyright – You obtain a copyright on your work as you write it. Registering it with the Copyright Office provides you with proof of it if you need to defend it. Obtain an application through the Library of Congress website ( Copyright rules can be easily checked on the internet.
  • Counting Fingers and Toes - It’s commonly said that parents check a newborn to see if they have all their fingers and toes. You’ll do the same thing when you have the rush of having your first carton of books delivered to you. It's a great moment for a writer, seeing the delivery after an elephant-length gestation period. Check the cover and read everything to make sure it’s ok. Look inside the book to see if everything is as it should be. This is another big advantage of having a small print run. If there’s a problem, it minimize it and it can be corrected for any future print runs.

For more information about selling books, visit my book's webpage. It will show you some of the things your book's webpage should include. To see the contents of my page, just click on the link I have on the home page of my book website:

Have a good and happy life,


Next time: Selling A Book