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About two months ago I was shown the door (exit door, that is), in no uncertain terms by a company I would have given my eye-teeth to work for.

That stung a bit, but I learned some important lessons. And I received fantastic advice and overwhelmingly positive support here to help me stay on the right track. Let me update you on these past two months.

Shaving away the savings

My savings are running thin, so I take a bottom-of-the-barrel job working in a factory to accrue income while continuing my job search. After six weeks on the job, I am promoted from the very lowest paying job to the very highest paying one (second only to plant foreman).

I now make more money starting in this position than I would have at the eye-teeth job, anyway.

It's a funny story of how it all came to be.

Oh god, not another HR interview… God, what did I ever do, I swear that I'll never again…

I go to a cattle-call company job fair. (Don't throw the tomatoes just yet! Networking prowess is forthcoming, keep reading!) I am the only candidate to arrive in a full suit. I want a sales job or something in the office but they are only hiring for plant jobs. Fine. I need income.

The HR person clearly does not believe I can possibly work in a factory. I tell her everything I know about the business. I can tell she considers it irrelevant. She just doesn't think I will fit. In desperation, I say, “Look, I'm a strong, tough guy who is no stranger to physical exertion and old-fashioned hard work.” No response.

My mind is going rapid-fire through everything I've learned about persuasion and influence, trying to do something to reach this woman. Just as I know she is about to show me the door, I think of physical transformations as described in How to Persuade People Who Don't Want to be Persuaded.

I slowly lift my arms and move my hands toward her. She becomes alarmed as any woman would when a stranger who is getting rejected for a job looks like he's about to strangle her!

I stop over her desk and flick my palms open toward her. She gasps a bit at the calluses and hardened skin on my grip. “That,” I declare with a smile, “is from deadlifting over 450-pounds with my back. I'm as tough as anybody you've got back there.”

She finally breaks down and smiles. “Why don't you come back tomorrow for a tour of the plant?... Honestly, I wouldn't have invited you back if you didn't show me the calluses,” she says with a chuckle. “You look too 'pretty' to work here if you don't mind me saying.”

“Well you're pretty and they hired you.

A "callous-approach" to getting a job, perhaps? Whatever works. This time, it was a "pretty" face and beat-up hands.

The best place to begin succeeding is where you are, with what you have

I go from certainty that I am getting my dream job to painful rejection, and then one week later I'm out of my business suit and in a pair or dirty, greasy coveralls, taking instruction on how to bevel steel from someone who can barely speak English coherently. I just bare down, grin and take it!

Most plant employees don't communicate much with the office, but I want something better and higher-paying, so I start networking. I make friends with the foreman and supervisors, and get to know the plant manager and production manager.

I become good friends with one of two guys who are working the highest-paying job in the plant, basically sitting in a chair and programming a computer to cut steel. Their job is the highest-paying, most complex, least labour-intensive, and most important to the production process. They also have the most interaction with the foreman and managers, and are most likely to become foreman or production managers themselves. Heck, they don't even get dirty!

I work as hard and smart as I can, and find a number of ways to improve my machine's production, and to make it easier for others to work with me. Within a month I am producing at a higher-rate on my machine than anyone has in the last forty years. I attribute some of that to my “genius,” and some of it to me simply being compared to about 40-years worth of lazy guys. :-)

You can't make a sale unless you ask

If they were paying me for piecework, I would have bought a Beamer with cash. But I am still paid by hour, so I need to do something that pays a higher rate. That's when I write a proposal to the plant manager with whom I had talked to a lot about the business and had come to know personally. I write him a detailed, two-page letter, proposing why I think I would do an outstanding job on a higher-paying machine that I had heard had an opening.

He calls me into his office the next day.

“Erdrick, I got your letter. It was very well-worded. You must be good at that typing thing. We would love for you to take that job. Let me talk to the foreman tomorrow, and I'll see what I can do for you.”

The next day he calls me into his office again.

“Erdrick, I wanted to get that job for you, but the foreman and I have someone else in mind for it.”

In my head I'm fighting back thoughts of, “Dammit! Every time I show initiative I get shot-“

“Because we want you to do the ESAB. Are you interested in that?”

I stare at my boss. In my head, I'm thinking something along the lines of, “Let me get this straight. You're telling me that you're not giving me the promotion I wanted. Instead, you're giving me the highest-quality, highest-paying job in the plant, the one that *everybody* wants but that only two people do, and you're offering it to me, after other guys have been here decades and I still have another two months of probation?”

Star Trek's Data might have been a little quicker to compute the comparison and respond, but I'm pretty sure I rather quickly said, “Yes, I'll do it.”

A friend that works the ESAB saw my proposal and said, “This should be posted on our company's bulletin board. Instead of complaining and whining about not rising in the company for years, people should see how it can be done in weeks if you're talented and ambitious. If you have initiative and confidence. Also, I spoke with so-and-so in the office. There is talk of you and me perhaps succeeding retirees in the office, to be trained for executive positions, because they need people who are striving to get ahead, and who really understand the business… By the way, what's this about you being pretty for the clients, but that you might need a manicure before shaking their hands?”

Well I'm sorry I've missed what's been going on at this board the past two months, but… I'VE BEEN WORKING! :-)

Very best wishes and thanks to everyone. The people on this board rule so hard.

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