Get Off Your Butt and Take Action


Wherever I look today, I see so many young people claiming they can’t find suitable work commensurate with their skill set and education. I’ll run into them at a local McDonald’s, Best Buys, and Starbucks. All of them seem like good people with a lot to offer, but something is holding them back.

Ask them how many resumes they’ve sent out and you’ll hear answers from “just a few” to “Well, I’m just getting around to it.” Many of them were graduated from college a year or two ago. You ask them why they aren’t hustling more and they’ll reply, “No jobs, man.”

That’s when I tell them to look up the word PERSISTENCE, the act of continuing steadily in spite of opposition.

College grads of my era heard the same thing in June of 1974. Oh, you’re an English major, no one is going to hire you? If some of us had listened to such claptrap we never would have gotten off our butts and just settled for $1.80 an hour at the nearest Hardees, Radio Shack or Chock Full o’ Nuts. Months, maybe years would have drifted by before we came to our senses.

So here’s the deal young people. Every generation has it tough. Get used to it. Nothing comes easy.

For starters, put together an effective resume. From where I sit, it’s a whole lot easier to type and lay out a resume than it had been 40 years ago. You’ve got computers. Make a mistake, hit the backspace button, continue typing and soon you are done. Forty years ago you’d make a mistake, rip the sheet of onion skin out of the typewriter, curse up a storm, and start over. That’s how it was. But we persisted and so must you.

Here’s an example of persistence: Just before graduation I had already mailed more than 300 — count ’em 300 — typewritten resumes to newspapers, magazines, and television and radio stations. I could not have cared if 299 turned me down, all I needed was one acceptance. And that came during the final week of July.

That morning my father and I took the train to New York from Convent Station, N.J. He was headed to work; I was looking for work. Before we parted at 33rd Street, he said, “You’ve been working real hard at these job interviews. Why don’t you meet me for lunch at Charley O’s restaurant by Rockefeller Center. I said thanks and we met at 12:30 p.m.

As we were about to order, a man named Nat Fields walked in. My father waved him over and invited him to join us. Nat was a big shot in the world of public relations. He knew everybody.

“What brings you to town, Joe?” he said.

“I’m looking for work in communications.”

“Want to be a sportswriter?”

I hadn’t considered that as a career, but I enjoyed sports and I said yes.

Nat took out a notebook, jotted down a name and a number, and handed it to me.

“Call this man tomorrow and you’ll have a job on Monday.”

“How can you be so sure?” I said.

“He’s a close friend and you seem like a diligent young man, and they’re always looking for good workers on newspapers.”

The next day I called Willie Klein of the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. He interviewed me on Friday and I started work as a copyboy on Monday.

Lucky break, you say. Perhaps. But I had ridden a lot of hot trains and subways all summer long to get that “lucky break.”

Are you hustling for your lucky break?

Now, if you don’t have work, keep searching and stop playing games on your smartphones. I realize smartphones are here to stay, but you need to demonstrate control over technology, it’s not the other way around. By the way, that’s not me talking, it was the late Ray Bradury, the greatest fantasy writer of the twentieth century, speaking at a writer’s conference in 1997 at the College of New Jersey.

He went on to point out the great distraction that technology presents. In fact, he warned 18 years ago that it was only going to get worse because technology is so addictive. He was correct. Keeping one’s eyes fixated on a smartphone just shrinks one’s world. Why do you want your world shrunk down to a three-inch screen so you can watch others live their lives — and often foolishly. How can that offer you a meaningful existence much less get you a job?

My suggestion to you is to try and break free from technology to some extent because as Bradbury said just before his death in 2012, “We have too many cell phones. We’ve got too many internets. We have too many machines now …”

So back off the technology a tad. Sit and think about what you truly wish to do in this world and then chase that dream job relentlessly. It’s closer than you think.


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