Welcome to 2011! For most of us January is a month when we come down from the holiday rush and try to get back into the swing of no longer indulging in high calorie meals. For me, it’s a time to visit my list of personal and professional goals for the New Year; to start off fresh with recharged optimism and confidence. Unfortunately, often times we are guilty of sabotaging the goals we set in the beginning of a New Year. Ted Williams, the homeless man who was discovered at the intersection of Interstate 71 and Hudson Street in Cleveland, Ohio holding a hand-written sign that promoted his “golden voice” had sabotaged his goals for so many years, his life had hit rock bottom. However, after two years of being clean from drugs and alcohol, Williams was savvy enough to ask for help with dignity; by offering his vocal talents in exchange for monetary contributions. Though a little luck and good timing have contributed to his overnight success (taking him from homeless to sought-after media personality), it is how he tackled his 5 second “elevator pitch” in front of the camera that is most impressive and inspirational to me as a career and image coach. His silky baritone voice has instantly captivated all of us who have watched the video of his public emergence: http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/extras/2011/goldenvoice/index.html.
This type of inspirational, “star is born” tale is just what we Americans (regardless of our employment status) need and love to hear about. It somehow validates that we all have special abilities and talents that make us employable individuals or even overnight sensations. It places us on an “equal” playing field. In Ted Williams’ case, his “golden voice” has not only landed him countless job offers from mega companies like MTV, NBC, the National Football League and the Cleveland Cavaliers, it has privileged him with a second chance of being embraced by society—and most importantly his 90 year-old mother. Yet, it’s the power of viral marketing that has escalated Williams’ notoriety to soaring heights: ironically, a medium the former panhandler didn’t even have at his fingertips. This story speaks to us on many different levels, but for job seekers across America there are some valuable lessons to be learned that will inspire success in 2011 and for years to come.
Image is All-Encompassing Not Just Appearance
Image is everything when you’re looking for a job. It is comprised of your ABC’s: appearance, behavior and communication. For Williams, as it was for singer Susan Boyle (who he is being compared to) appearance was not the most impressive quality, though behavior and certainly verbal communication skills were. Those who have been facilitating his job search have quickly aligned Williams’ image by grooming him with a haircut, shave and surely a lathered bath. Job seekers should note that even when you don’t have all three of your image components in place, employers may still consider you if one or two of your image “pieces” are superb.
Criminal Background Not Necessarily a Hiring Deterrent
One of the obstacles that kept Ted Williams from seeking a job was his fear that his past jail stints would deter him from being hired. Obviously, we now know that hasn’t been an issue for employers who are involved in bidding wars for his vocal talent. But just to make it clear for job seekers who feel concerned about this obstacle, interview questions about arrests are illegal. Employers are allowed to ask about convictions, but even that information may not be used legally to deny you employment unless the nature of the conviction directly correlates to the job description or indicate risk to property or employees within a company.
Expand Your Marketability Via the Internet
It’s pretty apparent that if Ted Williams’ video hadn’t gone viral on the internet he would still be homeless. The power of virtual marketing cannot be underestimated or ignored. You are able to build a platform that makes you desireable enough for companies to create jobs tailored around your skills. I am confident that more job candidates will upload virtual video résumés in 2011 and find enormous success in exploring this outlet. In fact, I predict companies like Monster.com will see a huge boost in their video résumé business. Job candidates with backgrounds that are not particularly impressive on paper or who have unexplained gaps on their résumés will benefit greatly from marketing their skills through video that is posted online.
I commend Ted Williams for his endurance, determination and desire to get back on his feet after “going through Hell and back.” He has a promising voiceover career ahead of him, and I really believe that this time around he won’t take opportunity for granted. The handwritten sign he once held may have become a prop for his media appearances, but the words will be embedded in his mind forever. It will be interesting to see which job offers Ted Williams accepts and how humble he will be in his negotiations. One thing is certain; his compensation will be significantly higher than the $10/day he earned on Hudson Street. Mr. Williams, thank you for inspiring us to stay true to our goals in 2011. Bravo!