Thursday, April 20, 2006

How to Look For Job Leads


In the earlier post, I advised against unemployed Black men using traditional employment search methods such as want ads, employment agencies and pounding the pavement submitting random job applications to strangers. So how are my brothers going to look for job leads? Networking.

What is networking? Simply talking to anyone and everyone about your skills and interests and what you want to do in life. Most Black men apply these social skills in other social situations but never think to apply them in a job search. For example, when they see an attractive woman, they smile, make eye contact, and introduce themselves. Then they make small talk and discuss their skills, interests and goals in life. The goal is to make the woman feel comfortable enough so she will give her phone number out to them. The same type of approach applies in a networking situation. Smile, make eye contact and introduce yourself to people. Then make small talk and discuss your skills, interests and goals in life. The objective is to make people feel comfortable enough that they will give you the names and phone numbers of people who can help you find employment.

There is no specific place or time to network. Any social interaction with another person is an opportunity to learn about information that can be beneficial towards your job search.

The ultimate goal of networking is actually not to find a job. It is to let others know about your skills, interests, and abilities. The more people who know what you can do and what you want to do, the more people there are available to help you find opportunities for employment in careers you really want to work in. The more people you talk to the more possibilities for job leads open up.

What a job lead looks like
If you network, you’re guaranteed to get some job leads. However you have to know what information to use in order to get a job.

The information you choose to act on can be the difference between going to work and going nowhere. “Pookie down the block says they’re hiring at the PathMark Supermarket” is not a job lead. Why? There isn’t enough information provided for someone to act quickly on the lead.

Based on the information given we know the supermarket PathMark is hiring. However, There are several hundred PathMark stores in New York City with hundreds of different jobs at each location. Unless you’re planning on applying at all of them, you’ll never know which one is offering the job by following this lead.

A true job lead provides clear details about the specific job you want to apply for. It allows the applicant to answer key questions like:

Who is hiring?
What positions are they hiring for?
When will they be taking applications?
Where is the location of the business that is doing the hiring?
Why is the company they hiring new employees?
How do I go about applying for this job?

You want to answer these questions before going out to apply for the job. Knowing this specific information beforehand will help you apply for the specific job you want. When you know who to talk to about what job you’re applying for you’ll have the information needed to know where to go in order make a contact with the right people.

A good job lead provides specific information about a specific job. An example of a good job lead is:

“Mark Jones, the Assistant Manager of Jay’s Auto parts on Fifth Street in Brooklyn is expanding his auto repair business and he’s looking for an auto mechanic. He’s looking for someone with with ASE certification and a year of experience. You can send him a resume through his e-mail when the store opens at nine in the morning at

Let’s break this lead down:

Who is hiring? Mark Jones.
Why is he hiring new employees? Because he’s expanding his auto repair business.
What type of employee is he looking for? An ASE Certified auto mechanic with one year of experience.
Where is the job located? Jay’s Auto Parts on Fifth Street in Brooklyn.
When can you contact him? Nine in the morning.
How do you go about applying for the job? Sending him a resume by e-mail when the store opens.

Notice how this job lead is full of clear details you the applicant can use to act on. By having the answers to these questions ahead of time you can prepare a resume and cover letter specifically addressed to the person doing the hiring or make a phone call to speak directly to them. Having a specific person to contact before applying for a job greatly increases your chances of getting an interview.

Who a contact is
It’s not what you know to fit the qualifications, but who you know to talk to about the job that gets you hired. When you know the name of the person doing the hiring, you know whom to contact to get further details about the job.

A contact is simply the name of a person with hiring authority or decision making abilities in a business. Anyone can be a contact person as we do business with lots of people every day. If those people work in a business or own a business, those people are always looking for new customers to work for. In order to serve those customers they need more employees. One of those employees could be you.

Word of mouth through networking about your skills is the best way to get work because your other network contacts can provide an instant reference. When people hear good things about you from other people in your network, they will want to hire you so they can have the same positive experience at their company.

Why contacts hire each other before a stranger
Most people hire service employees like hairdressers, gardeners, auto mechanics and plumbers to work for them because of referrals from other people like friends and relatives. They also hire people to work in their businesses based on referrals from those same friends and relatives. Why? Because they trust the person giving them referral. Because they trust the person giving them the referral, they believe the experience they’re going to have with a company will be a positive one.

What a Contact consists of:
· A name. The most important part of networking is getting the names of people who are hiring. By knowing who is hiring you can know who to ask for or who to write to. Also, having the name of the person on your cover letter guarantees that your letter will wind up on a manager’s desk and not tossed in a paper shredder by an administrative assistant.
· The title of the person (Manager, Director of Personnel, Executive Director) You want to make sure your contact is someone with hiring authority or is has the ear of someone with hiring authority.
· An Address. This is important if you have to send a resume or cover letter. Always make sure you get a full address with a state and zip code.
· A Phone number. This is important for making first contact with someone.
· An E-mail address. Also important for first contact with an employer. More and more employers today read their e-mail before answering a phone. Make sure you type the name of the position in the subject line to so your e-mail doesn’t wind up in a Spam mailbox.
· The name of the person who referred you. When making your first contact people will want to know who and where you got their name from.
Monday- Making first contact.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Crisis in New York- 60% of Black Men Unemployed

If you know any unemployed Black men, Please print out this blog and share it with them. It may just help them find a job. I’ll be updating this series every Monday and Thursday for the next couple of weeks.

Sixty percent of African-American men are unemployed in New York City. That’s a staggering statistic in a growing U.S. economy where the state unemployment rate is 4.6%, the national unemployment rate is at 4.5%, and the nation’s economy has enough jobs to outsource them to foreign countries. In a time when the overall American economy is booming, the economy in New York’s African-American community is collapsing. In that pool of unemployed men are people with decades of experience, college educations with multiple degrees, and skilled workers with detailed resumes proficient with every piece of computer software out there. So why can’t Black men in New York City find work?

Black leaders who try to address this issue are often are eager to answer the question citing the usual excuses: lack of education, poor schools, discrimination, and a changing job market due to the tragedy of 9/11. Some have even speculated that the growing Hispanic population in the city is costing African-American community jobs. However, race and formal education have nothing to do with this unemployment crisis. Black men in New York City and the country have never learned effective job searching skills that allowed them to stay competitive in the job market.

Culturally in America, job searching has always been a social skill children learned through interaction with parents and friends, not something taught in schools. Six in ten African-American men are still using outdated job seeking methods like want ads, filling out applications, and employment agencies to look for work because their parents used them in the past. What 100% of unemployed African-American men don’t know is that these job seeking methods were only successful 6.5 percent of the time ten years ago. In today’s highly competitive job market, they’re even less effective. Out of those six unemployed Black men using these methods, only one of them will probably find a job within two years if they try their hardest.

What can Black men do to improve their odds of finding work? They have to learn the skills and approaches that will help them find employment. They have to learn how to acquire information that can become a solid job lead. They have to learn how to take action on a job leads they get in a timely fashion. But before they learn these new skills they must learn why what they’re doing currently isn’t working.

Most black men I know swear up and down by the Sunday Times and the News, and plunk down $4.50 to buy a copy of both papers just for its help Wanted sections. What they don’t know is they’re wasting their money. Due to the way most newspapers are published, most want ads are already a week old the day they are printed. The ads listed in the Help wanted section in the Sunday newspaper are actually submitted by employers Tuesday, printed that Wednesday and delivered to retailers on Thursday. The Sunday main sections are usually delivered on Sunday morning and assembled together by retailers. By the time the customer buys the newspaper, the jobs listed in them are probably already filled. This is why only 0.5% (less than one half of one percent) of all job seekers find jobs through a newspaper.

Another traditional place African-Americans go looking for work are the employment agencies, Private and Public. State unemployment agencies are ineffective for a job search because they don’t update their databases regularly. Some of the job listings in those databases are up to a year or two years old! The information is just too old to act on.

Due to 9/11 most temporary agencies have shuttered their doors leaving black men without a place to look for work. The ones still in business have always been more interested in sales of services to large corporations, not developing a work record for their temps that helps them on a career track. The agent’s primary concern is making contract sales to the employer, not helping the temp find a full-time job with mobility. When an employee is hired, the agent actually loses money. This is why only 6% of all job seekers find employment find jobs through an agent.

Black men also often go door-to-door in their job searches looking for work, filling out random applications and submitting resumes to just about anyone. This approach may look productive, but in today’s changing job market it’s becoming a major time waster. In a city of over eight million people local businesses often get 100 to 200 applications a day. Most of these forms are simply are filed away, then tossed in the trash after 60 or 90 days; the usual timeframe for keeping an application on file. Some larger retailers like PathMark, Kmart, Whole Foods, and Best Buy are now using computerized systems for their application process. These databases are designed to automatically delete applications within 60 or 90 days automatically if no positions are open. Without a referral from an employee on the inside, getting a job this way is a crapshoot where the odds are against the job seeker.


African-Americans must change the way they approach searching for a job. Instead of seeing job searches as work, they must start seeing it as a life skill they will need to function as an independent adult. People will change jobs and companies on average 11 times in their lifetime. Transitioning from one job to another so many times will require all people to start approaching the job market from a different perspective.

As I stated earlier looking for work is a skill that has to be learned. If you know how to look for work, you’ll know where to get the leads to find a job. I believe once Black men are taught job seeking skills, the overall unemployment rate among African-Americans will decline permanently.

The Job Seeker with life skills is :

proactive, not passive.
The most important skill Black men must learn is how to be proactive during a job search. When you’re on a job or attending school is the best time to look for work. These two environments are full of support networks of individuals who can help find and share leads, like teachers, co-workers, and managers. Being around positive people and in positive environments create positive results. Each day you are around people who are working it will motivate you work harder towards achieving your goal of finding a job. Waiting until after graduation or after a job loss cuts you off from your support network and makes it even harder to find another job.

Knows time is of the essence.
The main reason Black men have such a hard time finding employment is because the methods they used do not allow them to act on information they get in a timely manner. Before Black men can go looking for work, they must understand that they don’t have a moment to lose when they get a job lead. As more time passes, more people in the community will learn about the same job. The more applicants there are competing for a job the less your chances of getting hired. The fewer applicants you have to compete with for a job the better your chances of getting hired.

The second thing Black men have to learn how to do is network. The more people who know you're looking for work, the more help you can get. 93.5% of people get jobs by a referral from a relative, friend, co-worker hairdresser, doctor, or boss. And networking isn’t some formal skill used at only at job fairs or seminars; it’s something done even in the most informal of situations. If you’re talking to people in school or at church or even at a party you’re networking. Let people know what you can do or what you want to do are and that you are looking for work in that field. You’ll be surprised how many job leads you pick up.

Learning who has hiring authority and getting to know them increases your chances of getting hired. By going out and finding their information on your own shows employers you’re taking the initiative and you’re really passionate about the field you want to work in. You’ll also have something to talk about when you write the cover letter and get the interview.

Thursday- how to look for job leads.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Isis Promo and My Biographies

I thought the book was out of print, but there are still copies available for purchase at and Barnes & Noble. Here's the synopsis for ISIS straight from the back cover:

A lost goddess
A heritage found
A greater destiny to be achieved

In the aftermath of a horrible tragedy, Isis the long-lost daughter of Osiris has committed a heinous crime. Because she didn’t receive guidance from her father, the elder gods show mercy on the young goddess by stripping her of her powers and imprisoning her on an uncharted island in the South Pacific.

Osiris and Isis reunite with his long-lost child to begin the difficult process of establishing a familial relationship. Hoping to guide Isis towards the greater destiny she’s supposed to fulfill, her parents begin teaching her the ways of the gods. However, Seth’s herald E’steem lurks in the shadows offering Isis freedom for a price. Caught in the middle of a never-ending war between the gods, Isis must choose to either return to the troubled world she knows all too well, or take a journey down an unknown path where faith is her only guide.

My Biography (as of 2004)

Shawn James is the author of the novel Isis and the 2000 and 2001 STRIVE Community Resource Directories. He has also written articles for The Visionary: News of Morrisania, and the STRIVE Network News newsletter. A graduate of Monroe College he’s been writing for over ten years.

My Life story

Professionally I’ve been writing since 1994. But I’ve actually been writing fiction stories since I was nine or ten years old.

My journey to becoming a writer started with my older brother Steve’s comic book collection. I liked his comics so much I started trying to make my own.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t draw so well. So I thought to myself I’ll make my pictures with words and the reader can imagine the pictures in their mind from the words I write. I’d write a story on loose-leaf paper, glue it together and draw up a cover for it. It looks horrible now but when I was younger, it was the greatest thing I could ever make. The fun part about my comics was I could hide them in my binder! (If I glued them together right)

I started out with a character named Mayor Fox. Mayor Fox was a plastic figurine from a Richard Scarry Puzzletown toy set I used to own when I was five or six. I loved the character so much I started writing my own adventures with him. From there I co-opted characters from various TV shows I watched innocently unaware of the numerous copyright and trademark laws I was breaking adding them to my homemade fiction. I wrote these home made comic/novellas until I was about thirteen going on fourteen in 1987. For about two and a half years I stopped writing to do teenage things (collect real comics, chase girls, watch movies and gorge on junk food). I had my mind made up to be a baker until I had to change schools in 1990 due to some problems with bullies.

Looking to deal with my troubles from the previous year, I returned to writing in June of 1990 at the age of sixteen. This morphed into a mission for me. I wanted to create positive images of African-Americans to counter the negative ones I saw on TV every night and experienced every day on the street and at school. A big fan of comics and science fiction since I was little I aspired to be a comic book writer.

I finally learned how to draw portraits (the picture above is a self portrait) and I started writing a character named John Haynes, loosely based on myself at the time. I was probably a little too inspired by Schwarzenegger action movies and most of my stories were ridiculous shoot em-ups full of explosions, car chases and hot chicks. My premises were so ridiculous; one story was about a cosmetics company trying to take over New York City with a nuclear bomb planted in a slot machine, another was about cyborg gang member with razor sharp steel talon fingers and I even wrote a story about black Nazis. (My face was red when I opened a history book) Well, I was sixteen and that’s how a sixteen-year-old boy thinks.

I wrote these awful stories until about 1993. I took some time off to finish college and complete my degree in Business Administration. While I was looking for work 1995, I revamped John Haynes. I learned to keep my story simple. I started out with a short story titled Dinner For Two about a date gone wrong. It was a powerful emotional story for me; it still makes me feel heavy in the heart when I read it today. The short story grew into my first novel The Changing Soul. The story was about a man trying to break free from a vicious cycle of self-destructive behavior.

Somewhere in between 1995 and 1997 the comic book industry collapsed. My dreams of becoming a comic book writer were dashed with the declining values of my large collection. However, I started reading African-American fiction from writers like Terry McMillan, Connie Briscoe Ralph Ellison and Claude Brown. The books had just as much impact on me as the comics I read; inspiring me to be a better writer. Doing some research I realized there was a larger African-American audience in the fiction book market than the White male dominated comic book industry. So in 1998 I started shopping The Changing Soul around to publishers and agents. The book still sits in a box in my closet next to about sixty rejection letters.

I tinkered with The Changing Soul until about 2001 trying to get it right. While I edited that novel, I wrote a story loosely based on the Egyptian gods titled Isis in1999. Isis was an easy story to put together; I loved the characters and loved Egyptian mythology. I had a blast writing Isis. It was fun for this black man to create a story that focused on mythology from a woman’s perspective and dealt with the issues of the modern African-American family.

I solicited Isis a couple of publishers with no takers. During my query process I was disappointed to learn there’s no market for African-American fantasy, like there is for White fantasy books such as Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings and The Mists of Avalon. However, I truly believed in the story so I self published the book in 2002. Self-publishing Isis was a great learning experience. I learned a lot about publishing, writing and the business of selling books that I was able to apply to future novels.

Around 2003, a little older and a little wiser, I started working on anew project. I wanted to create a positive story about the African-American workplace infused with dark comedy. Inspired by the films The Apartment, Clockwatchers and Strictly Business I completed a draft my first commercial novel, The Cassandra Cookbook in the hopes of attracting African-American female readers to my writing. I really enjoyed writing this story. In developing this novel I saw how much I grew as a writer. The plot is tighter, the paragraphs more detailed and descriptive. My sentence structure is a lot better and my grammar has improved. My style is clear; you can tell it’s a “Shawn James” novel from the first sentence to the last.

I’m still writing; right now I’m working on a new novel, working on some screenplay adaptations and a second edition of Isis. I’m planning a new cover and layout and a brand new opening for the second edition.

Inaugural Blog

Hello, everyone, My name is Shawn James and I'm a 32 year old unemployed struggling African American fiction writer and artist. I decided to start this blog so I could have a place to post up stuff about the stories and books I write, and to have a place to post some of my art. I'll also post:

  • Tips for writers on Query letters, story ideas and the like.
  • Write about my struggles as an African-American male in New York working on my dream to be a writer while searching for a decent paying job.
  • Promote my self-published novel Isis
  • Discuss issues in the African-American Community.
  • Discuss books I'm writing and submitting to publishers and agents.

Next up will be an overview of my novel Isis.