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Title : “Unstuckable – Episode 20 : Create Your Own Job Like Jon Spitz”
URL : http://unstuckable.co/episode-020-create-your-own-job-like-jon-spitz/

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Organization : Unstuckable Podcast

Web Site
http://unstuckable.co
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU07xkEbTzsD6u8xz4_tNTw/videos

Host 1 : Stephen Warley
Contact : LinkedIn profile

Host 2 : Chris Wilson
Contact : LinkedIn Profile

Guest : Jon Spitz
Contact : LinkedIn Profile

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Transcript :
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Announcer : It’s time to get unstuck.[music] Welcome to Unstuckable episode 20. Need a mentor? Email someone you admire today and ask them to meet. I’m Chris Wilson and now here’s Stephen Warley with today’s unstuckable story. [music]

Stephen Warley : Thanks Chris. Why wait for someone to hire you? Why is it that the only way most of us think we can ever get a job is by applying for one. In today’s very competitive economy the very best way to stand out from the crowd and eliminate the competition is to create a job that only you are uniquely qualified to do. Meet Jon Spitz. He just got a job as the operations manager of 43north.org. It’s the world’s largest business plan competition, with $5 million to give away. He recently brought “Startup Weekend” to his home town of Buffalo. He produced three different events in just one year attracting 350 entrepreneurs, and wasn’t paid a dime for his work. Jon doesn’t wait for job openings – he creates them. On three different occasions Jon basically created his own job. Once he pitched a local juice vendor on how he could manage their social media for them. He got noticed on LinkedIn for his social media abilities and then landed his next job as a director for online recruitment for a local college. Finally, he landed his current job by connections he made by bringing “Startup Weekend” to Buffalo and showcasing his ability for bringing entrepreneurs together. As you listen to Jon, think of a couple of companies you’ve always wanted to work with and spend 15 minutes thinking about what you could do for them that noone else with your qualifications can. Hey John, thank you so much for joining us. Our good friend Griffin Jones – our mutual connection – I’m so glad he got us together.

Jon Spitz : Hey, thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Stephen : We’ll be talking to Griffin in a future podcast, because he’s galavanting out in Boliva right now as the both of us are enduring a hard winter. So Jon, tell me how you think you’ve been unstuckable in your career.

Jon : Well I guess when I graduated college I was working for a supermarket – granted it was the biggest and best, and still is, the best supermarket in the world – Wegman’s –

Stephen : They’ve finally come to Massachusetts.

Jon : Yeah, that’s a big deal. You should go there. It’s good stuff. Great prepared foods. Can’t say enough good things about the place. I worked through high school and then I got a full-time job, had a great management role people would have killed to have. I did it for about two-and-a-half years, but probably after a year-and-a-half I kind of realized that this is not what I wanted to do. So I did feel stuck. I was in retail and I wanted to get out of retail as bad as I could, but I couldn’t dream of the day that I could put on a shirt and a tie. That was my goal.

Stephen : Really? See, I was dreaming of the day when I didn’t have to put that on anymore.

Jon : Yeah, I’m at that stage now. But at this stage I was like, “God, I don’t want to have to put on a uniform. I want to put on a shirt and tie and go sit in an office.” So what I actually did was – it was long talks with my folks at home, my support network – and I basically was like, “I can’t do this job.” I had to quit, and that’s exactly what I did. I quit and I didn’t have anything lined up.

Stephen : Really, it was that bad?

Jon : It was that bad for me, yeah.

Stephen : What was it like towards the end? How did you feel going into work?

Jon : I dreaded it. I would have to get there by 6:00 am – it was a thirty minute drive. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of getting my coffee in the morning, from Tim Horton’s – which was really good coffee, but it wasn’t that good.

Stephen : What was it about the job that you were like, “This is so not for me?”

Jon : Well, I was 22 or 23 at the time, and I’m working retail. So the busiest days at a grocery store – if you were to guess – would probably be what? What days do you think people usually shop at a grocery store?

Stephen : Oh, weekends. Isn’t Wednesday the best day to go shopping?

Jon : Yes it is.

Stephern : That’s when I go.

Jon : Yes, weekends. So that means that as a manager you’re there on the weekends. So when all of my friends are out having fun on the weekends I’m getting up at 6:00 am to go into a cooler and then empty the cooler and bring it out to the sales floor for people. So just being in the retail environment, working weekends and holidays, I knew that was something I wasn’t going to be doing for very long. I guess at the end there I actually tried to get to Boston when they opened up those stores. I was like, “Listen, I’ll go to Boston. I’ll help them open the stores and show them the Wegman’s way.” and when I got rejected for that, and upon getting rejected for a couple of other things I kind of thought that the company wasn’t on the same career trajectory so I had to make my own career trajectory.

Stephen : That’s interesting. Also, that seems like a big part of it. Maybe if they did give you some advancement opportunities you might have stuck around a little longer.

Jon : Yeah, but would I have been happy? Maybe temporarily.

Stephen : Right, it’s true. We always think that small change sometimes can be a good thing, but if it is more of the same thing you’re stuck a little longer in a place you don’t want to be.

Jon : Exactly.

Stephen : So you quit. I know you were probably raised this way. I was raised this way. It’s like, “Oh my god! Don’t quit your job until you have another job.” I have to say that I feel my mindset is changing. I mean, if you’re not happy and as long as somehow you can financially take care of yourself and you’ve found an alternative way to do that, I think it’s not a bad thing if it puts more time into focusing on what you really want to do.

Jon : Right, and to me – at least from my experience, as I’ve done it recently again – looking for a job really, for me, is a full-time job. So what I did when I walked in and quit – I didn’t do it like a maniac or anything like that, I did it politically right – was I created my own job. Then I was a juice vendor who worked at Wegman’s that was locally in Geneva, New York. I basically reached out to them and was like, “Hey, I can help you guys. I love social media. Let me build something for you and be the social media guy.” Basically what they said was “Come back to me. Write a business plan on what you’re going to do for us and break it down…” So, long story short, I got a job with them and started working with them. So I kind of created what I wanted to do which at that time was social media. Social media was just getting into businesses, and I was like, “Okay, this is my ticket out of the grocery store.”

Stephen : So was it a ticket out of like, “Cause I didn’t want to do that.” Or were you generally really interested in it?

Jon : Really interested in social media. Can I say I was really interested in the juice company itself? No. But to this day, Red Jacket Orchards is the best fresh juice that you can get. If you’re in New York City they have it in all of the Green Markets there. I don’t know about Boston. It’s great stuff. It’s like Bolthouse juice basically, if you’ve had that before.

Stephen : So where did the idea come from? Did you ever think of working for yourself before? Where did that idea or urge come from?

Jon : No. I just had a connection there with one of the vendors and I was like, “I’m just going to try and create my own job there.” I ended up doing it. Then three months later, all of a sudden via LinkedIn, I got a phone call from a recruiter and then I got my next job and I had to leave that place. I kind of created that momentum, because I wrote that business plan. I told those people, “This is what I’m going to do for you.” You can send your resume all over the place, but – I don’t know what the numbers are – I think it’s about a 10% chance that you’re going to get that job, compared to knowing somebody.

Stephen : It’s so interesting. That’s what I’m increasingly advising people to do, is – not that we want to work for free, we want to be rewarded for our efforts – but show what you can do. Bring ideas to a company you want to work for instead of waiting around for a job opening, because your initiative is going to really stand out rather than just a long line of people asking for a job.

Jon : Right, exactly.

Stephen : So you got called by a recruiter.

Jon : I got called by a recruiter. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been called by a recruiter, but usually it’s for insurance – at least that’s usually my experience, they were like, “Do you want to sell insurance?”. So I kept getting these calls and I was driving on the road selling juice in Binghamton and I got the call. I kind of answered snarky at the time [crosstalk], and it turns out that it was this great opportunity at this college. So I was like, “Yeah, I’m definitely interested.” To make a long story short, I interviewed on a Thursday and Friday morning at 9:00 am they tell me I got the job. All of a sudden I’m in a shirt and tie in the office I’ve always dreamed of –

Stephen : What were you doing at the college?

Jon : I was supposed to be doing a lot of social media. What it turned into was more sales admissions, but it was still a great learning experience, learning opportunity and I ended up getting my MBA through them. Never in a million years did I think I would go back to school at the time.

Stephen : Hey, and it was paid for.

Jon : That’s a good thing.

Stephen : That’s the best way to get an MBA.

Jon : Right. So as I was doing all of that I kind of started realizing that maybe I was a little stuck again. So I was like, “What do I really like to do?” and that’s when I went to a “Startup Weekend” in Rochester. For those who aren’t familiar with the “Startup Weekend”, it’s a 54 hour event which brings like-minded people of all different skills sets – whether you are business folk, a designer or developer who develops web apps or whatever –

Stephen : It is an awesome event. Chris and I did the one in Cape Cod last year.

Jon : Oh, it’s great. To me it’s the best learning experience. It’s just a great way to get around people who have the same interests as you.

Stephen : Yeah, and at a lot of conferences you’re just sitting there listening to panels or lectures. This is very proactive. You really get to be involved and it’s awesome.

Jon : Yeah, so I did that and I left that weekend and I was like, “Wow! That was just amazing.” and I’m like, “That really needs to come to Buffalo.”

Stephen : So they had not had one in Buffalo.

Jon : No. It just hadn’t happened, because, it hadn’t happened. So I reached out to a couple of people I had met at the event, and I’m like, “How do I bring this to Buffalo?” and I get connected to my buddy Dan and he was like “Yeah man. We totally want to bring this, but we don’t have the bandwidth. We need someone to lead the way.” I naively was like, “Oh, sure. I’ll do that.”, not knowing what I was signing myself up for at the time.

Stephen : I think it is so awesome. I mean, you brought a Startup Weekend to a city. That’s awesome.

Jon : I did. I signed up it, but there was an army of awesome people I met along the way that helped bring that to fruition. Really, without them it wouldn’t have happened. But yeah, I was kind of the thing that pushed it over the hill. I was like, “We’re just going to do this. I’m going to sign us up and then we’ll figure out how it happens after.”

Stephen : How long did it take to put together?

Jon : I want to say we took about four to six months for the first one, and then we’ve launched two others after that, so three total in almost less than a year – which is a little aggressive – and I’m a little burnt out.

Stephen : And how many people participated?

Jon : I’d say over all three events we’ve had about 350 people participate –

Stephen : That’s awesome. Congratulations.

Jon : Which, in Buffalo, it’s really exciting because we’re trying to change that blue-collar mindset where you have to graduate college and go work at a bank or just go get that job. Maybe you can create your own job, right here in this community. We want that encouragement and support and make people realize that it’s okay if you try to start a business and fail. It’s going to be rewarded, and then you can try and start the next one, and you’re going to learn a lot from doing that. So, we’re trying to create that environment here.

Stephen : That sounds like a very unstuckable philosophy.

Jon : Absolutely.

Stephen : And you’re trying to do it to a whole city.

Jon : A whole city, man. It’s grassroots. My one buddy, whose really involved in this too, posted an article about Detroit. Maybe he can get connected somewhere in there. The guy was saying that the real entrepreneurs are the people that are trying to build an entrepreneurial community in their communities – like Detroit, like Pittsburgh, like Buffalo – these cities that are rust belt. They’ve been destroyed by businesses leaving and they’re trying to build that community back up. I like that because I’m in Buffalo. Nothing against being in Boston and New York and San Fran, right? Those are already built.

Stephen : Well, you never know what could happen to the economy… How do you know when you’re stuck? It seems like you have this – you just know when you’ve had enough and it is time to move on, and then you just jump into things. So how do you know?

Jon : For me it’s like every job that I go to I’m trying to learn whatever I can from that job. To me, you kind of get that feeling that you’ve taken all the skills – you know, you’re not going to be a master or expert of anything – but you get a feeling that like, “Okay, I think I’ve kind of used everything I’m going to get out of this employer.”. And if there is no room for me to get higher up and learn some more new skills, to me, that’s when I’m stuck. That’s the scariest thing to me, when I’m not learning anymore, or developing my own skill sets. Because in the end, everybody is in the business of themselves, and if you aren’t in that mindset – that you’re in the business of you – you’ve got to get in it, because nobody cares about your brand more than yourself. That’s the way I look at it.

Stephen : It is. It’s so funny. I always say the most important skill in business is communication – and I would say, sales. Yet, what don’t they teach you in business school? How to sell! So none of us know how to sell ourselves.

Jon : It’s an awkward thing, too, usually. People aren’t comfortable bragging about themselves – some people are – but not everybody is comfortable selling themselves and bragging about what they’ve done. It’s just an awkward thing sometimes for people.

Stephen : Yeah, what is your quick story? I think that’s a big thing that we’re trying to make people aware of, is how to tell your story. What’s the quick story that you tell about yourself. What’s your quick pitch about why Jon Spitz is so awesome.

Jon : Oh man. You’re putting me on the spot? I guess I’m a doer, right? I’ve done a lot of things, from being the guy who brought Startup Weekend here, and now I’m going to be one of the guys, and gals, that brings the world’s largest business plan competition to the city of Buffalo. I don’t know. You’ve put me on the spot and I didn’t have a good response.

Stephen : I think that’s a good answer because I think that’s what it’s about when you’re selling yourself, right? You have to have that answer ready to go, because how are people going to remember you. I’m sure there are already people in the community of Buffalo who know “Oh gosh, if we need to get this thing done, you know who we need to call? Jon Spitz.”

Jon : I’d like to think so. My new boss – who is awesome – says “Your reputation is the one thing that you have to hold near and dear to your heart, because when you lose that reputation it is very, very difficult to get it back. So you need to be known as someone who follows through, gets things done, that can be relied on. If you are known as that type of person I think that goes a long way. Then you can help other people through networking and volunteering – I think volunteering is probably one of the number one things I recommend to anybody to get unstuck.

Stephen : Yeah, and I think it’s amazing – you didn’t get paid for anything you did for the startup weekend, correct?

Job : No.

Stephen : That is a ton of work, but tell me – what do you feel? What did it give you back? Why was it worth it?

Jon : Let’s say I didn’t get this job I have now – which I attribute to Startup Weekend – still, just like the relationships I have now in the community with like-minded folks. The feeling you have when you’re at that event, and you see the energy in that room and all of the people – whether it’s 70 people or 100 people – that believe they have the next Facebook, the next big thing. Man, it’s just such a high that your high on it for that whole weekend, and then a couple of days after. That’s why we keep doing it, because it’s just an incredible feeling to see these people and this energy. You’re bringing strangers together to try and accomplish something huge. That’s why I did it and that’s while I’ll probably continue to do it.

Stephen : I want to ask you in a second about your new job – about the new chapter in your career – but something else about the Startup Weekend, or your experience in building communities. What do you think are the ingredients to build a community that cares?… That’s hard.

Jon : It is. It’s a slow burn, but it really starts with a couple of passionate individuals really spreading that energy. That energy is contagious, and once people see that they’re not alone and there are other people who feel the same way and have the same ideas and think the same way they do, then it starts spreading. It’s slow, but to get people involved what really probably should happen – what I keep telling the folks that we do Startup Weekend with – is that we should really probably pass that event off to somebody else – as much as I love it – and let them run with it, bring their communities into it and let it even more. Then we go on to do a different event. So we keep getting all of these different events which are running simultaneously so there’s just a ton of entrepreneurial events happening in Buffalo, and we turn into this hub of – nobody would even think right now to start a business in Buffalo – but I’d like to think that in ten years that’s going to be a very, very different story.

Stephen : Well, just the standard or cost of living is so much less expensive than Silicon Valley or New York City, that I think that is a story that Buffalo needs to tell. That is, the dramatic cut in startup costs just because it’s going to be so much cheaper to live and have office space, etc.

Jon : Yeah, I own a house – which is just stupid to me that I can own a house. You can do that in Buffalo. Your friends in New York and etc. – they can’t do that. That’s one of the big advantages here.

Stephen : Absolutely. So you were at the college. When did you know to leave that and what did you leap into next?

Jon : I left Medaille College. I think both parties knew it was time. It was just, a lot of things went on there. Half of my staff had gotten fired, and they had been there for 30+ years. So it was just a really negative atmosphere, and I knew that I couldn’t keep doing this to myself because I started to feel like I was back at Wegman’s. Nothing against Wegman’s – because they’re a great company – but I just didn’t want to feel this way. Life is too short to feel this way. So it was really a mutual part. I told them, “Listen, I’m just going to finish up my MBA and I’m out of here.” Then I was finishing up my MBA and this job opportunity popped up – through one of the connections through Startup Weekend, giving me the introduction to the hiring manager – and then , long story short I ended up scoring really, right now, the dream job. I’m basically getting paid to do Startup Weekend, which is like “Wow!”.

Stephen : Awesome. So what’s the company? What do they do?

Jon : So, it’s “43 North” It is the world’s largest business plan competition, and by that meaning we have the most money. So it’s almost like a mass challenge, except there’s more money in the line. So we have $5 million total in prizes, and there’s going to be a million for first, there’s going to be six half million prizes, and I think four quarter million prizes.

Stephen : Wow, and what are you doing for them?

Jon : I’m the operations manager, so I’m really trying to build the competition – like I built Startup Weekend. So, what are the requirements to join the competition, getting judges, getting mentors. Then I’ll be traveling. So I’ll be heading up to Washington, New York, Boston – trying to recruit people.

Stephen : Well, you have to stop by and visit Chris and I.

Jon : Yeah, I’d love to. I’ll be in Boston, I hope. So , it’s like unbelievable. It’s a really small team, but I’m interfacing with some of — like, some of the people I’m sitting next to in meetings I’m like, “God, I can’t believe I’m sitting next to this person.” You know? Because they’re really successful people in Buffalo, and just sometimes I pinch myself, because I’ve never liked a job where I woke up and didn’t mind going to work in seven degree weather, like today. Or brought work home, and was just doing it because I wanted to do it and not because I had to. It’s like a strange feeling, and I think that’s what everybody is looking for. It doesn’t necessarily have to be you starting your own business, but finding that company where you have the same belief system, and you like the mission that they’re going for and things like that. I really wish it upon everybody, because it’s really an awesome feeling.

Stephen : I’m really glad you said that, because that’s something that we’re trying to do – that idea of entrepreneurship. That you don’t have to be that person that’s going to go get VC money and start your own business. You can find that right opportunity. It’s about being empowered. It’s about really knowing your story, knowing what you want and the people you want to work with, and going out there and finding it. It sounds like you’ve gone through a lot of trial and error to find it, but it seems like it was so worth it.

Jon : Oh my god, yeah. I probably wouldn’t have it any other way, but if you would have asked me when I was at a couple of those jobs, I probably would have sang a different tune. But now that I’m where I’m at today, you kind of see why it all took place, and all of the things you learned throughout those jobs.

Stephen : Well this is really awesome. I love your unstuckable story, but now it’s time to turn the tables. Are you ready to help our listeners get unstuck and take action?

Jon : Of course.

Stephen : So, how would you describe someone who is unstuckable?

Jon : I guess if you’re in a place where you just know that you’re not happy. If you’re not happy going to work – which I don’t think most people are for the most part – you’ve got to do something. For me, I took a drastic move and quit my job. I really don’t recommend that to anybody unless you’re in a position to do that. Other than that, my first thing would probably be networking. I think networking is the #1 thing to do to get unstuck, wherever you are. By that, try to find a cause that you really believe in. There’s tons of non-profits in any community. Maybe create your own, but just get involved and help people. When you truly try to help somebody, it seems that it comes back to you. By that I mean that if I help connect you to somebody else I know that’s somewhere else in the country, you’re going to be more prone to help me do something. It’s just human nature. If somebody helps you you want to return the favor. So to genuinely help people by volunteering, I think good things just come your way. Not only karma, but at the end of the day, I think job opportunities, etc.

Jon : Yeah, I think even when you want to go to a conference or an event that you’re really excited about – the people who are going to be there, the speakers, the content. Take the next step and actually volunteer and see if they need any help, because you are going to meet that many more people because you’re going to have an integrated role into how that conference is run. You know that better than anybody.

Jon : Yeah, that’s actually great idea.

Stephen : Right? You were kind of like. “I’m going to sit at the registration table so I can meet everybody and they come in, absolutely. So, excellent point. I really am such a firm believer in just meeting somebody and doing something new. That’s a great way to get unstuck. Is there a particular resource, a book, podcast, quote – anything like that – that you use regularly to help people get unstuck?

Jon : There’s a couple of books. One of them is, I think it’s “The Magic of Thinking Big”. I don’t know who the author is. I gave the book to my sister because I loved it so much, and I wanted to make sure that she read it. Really good book. Just really on the magic of thinking big. So thinking positive and all of that stuff. I highly recommend that book. I also really like Gary Vanderchuck.

Stephen : Oh, yes.

Jon : I’m a social media geek –

Stephen : I love “Crush It”.

Jon : Yeah, “Crush It” was actually the book which made me quit my job.

Stephen : Wow!, Thank you Gary V. Look what you did for Jon.

Jon : Those would be the two which come to mind immediately.

Stephen : Is there anybody you would like to thank, that has helped you get unstuck, and how did they help you?

Jon : I always think that getting that job at Medaille. Jackie Matheny was the hiring boss. For her to give me that opportunity – because I was hired as the director of online recruitment, which at the time after I got there I realized that I probably had no business getting that job. She really took a leap of faith on me, and it probably changed the whole course of my career trajectory. So that would be one of the first ones. I actually wrote her a letter after they fired her that said how much I owed to her. Then [Ad Harrigon?] –

Stephen : I think that’s awesome by the way. I just think it is a reminder. For those people that – you don’t even realize – it could have been just something they said. But it affected your life. I think, write a note, send an email if you’re able to contact them somehow, and just let them know how they changed the course of your life. I think it’s such a nice gesture back to what you were saying about helping people out, volunteering, and giving something back.

Jon : Oh, absolutely. Then Ed Harrigan, he was my manager over at Wegman’s. It was not until I got into my MBA program, and they started doing the leadership courses, that I really realized like, “Wow. Ed was telling me all of this stuff for free at work.” So I was learning leadership way back from him. I guess to my last point on really how to get unstuck – and my boss kind of reiterated it – and I’m going to try and pursue this myself now. You need a mentor, and you probably need more than one. Just reach out to somebody. He suggested you reach out to somebody in the community that you admire and it doesn’t matter how big they are. He goes, “The worst thing they do is don’t respond or say no. But everybody likes to get their ego stroked, so write them an email and say, “Hey, you have a phenomenal career background. I would love to grab a coffee with you and chat.”. Then just take it from there. So I actually reached out to this gentleman I’ve met through my new job, who has just an incredible resume, and said, “Hey, I had a great time meeting you the first time. If you’re available, I’d love to bounce ideas off of you from now and then, over a cup of coffee. He’s like, “Sure, no problem. I would love to help out.” I think you don’t know until you ask, but we’re all afraid to ask. So I think, just getting somebody you admire that you don’t work with but is in a different industry, I think that is probably a huge thing that most people are afraid to do,

Stephen : I think that’s great advice. What I always tell people is everybody likes a compliment. Something they wrote or did that you genuinely really liked, and influenced you – let them know. That is a connection, instead of just saying, “I want to make a lot of money just like you!” And maybe that is an approach, who knows. You never know who you’re talking to. Even for our podcast, it’s amazing how many people who have been so generous with their time who we thought would never want to give us the time of day. It’s been a tremendous experience.

Jon : Awesoe.

Stephen : So John, thank you so much for all of your awesome advice. There’s a lot of great nuggets in there for people to go back and listen to on how they can get unstuck. Hopefully, we’ll have you back one day. And good luck with the new business plan competition.

Jon : Yeah, and people should check it out at 43north.org. You can apply, register, and maybe you can get unstuck by starting your own business and bringing it right here to Buffalo, New York.

Stephen : Love it! Thanks so much Jon.

Jon : Alright, thanks.

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Day 10 : Writing As A Tool For Building and Developing Your Freelance Transcription Career

hand_writing

My first day as a certified member of the transcriptionist team at TranscribeMe has been one of fascination and information overload. Having now registered on the system I have been given access to several well-organized, yet dense, resources which form a comprehensive introduction and transition into the company. The internal social media network (which is essentially a customized, internal, Facebook-style social media platform where all members of the company can connect and share information) is run on the Yammer system. The revolution in workplace social media applications which Yammer exemplifies is in itself a very interesting subject to research. Here’s a very informative lecture by Adam Pisoni, the CEO of Yammer, where he explains how the evolving social media technology is revolutionizing communication and productivity levels in work organizations off all kinds and sizes :

A quick browse through the sections and topics shows a thriving social network of people from locations throughout the world sharing helpful information related to company operations, work issues, support for all kinds of potential issues which can arise, etc. It has all of the helpful features of any social media system, allowing you to connect with, follow, send messages, chat, etc. with other members of the company. Compare this with the essentially ABSENT communication provided by the other company I have been working with for the past month and the TranscribeMe system is a breath of fresh air. It is also a good opportunity to gain experience with this kind of productive communication system and the purposes it serves in the online transcription industry. Communication itself is a VITAL component to the entire online transcription operation, as it is often the only mechanism by which transcribers can collaborate and share important information related to the companies they work for, the projects they work on and the customers they serve. Considering that most online transcriptionists are home-based teleworkers who are dispersed throughout the world, the internet essentially provides the main means of communication between themselves, their coworkers, and their employers/clients.

I decide to take things nice and slowly as I work to get my bearings in this initial stage. I read a couple of posts whose topics catch my interest. These short posts are clear and provide quick and complete answers to very practical questions. I find a handful of these posts in the first hour of browsing, and each one provides an answer to an important question I have as a newbie which then allows me to proceed working through the system with more confidence and competence. I also “follow” a few of the people I know from the external forums who have already been working on TranscribeMe. These connections are valuable, especially in the beginning as I can ask some questions directly to these people instead of taking the risk of bothering other people in the network who I don’t know. As a newbie I am hesitant to make any posts as there is always the risk of breaking etiquette by asking a question which has already been addressed. So I decide to lurk for the first few days and take in as much info as I can without actually posting.

Speaking of etiquette, the company also provides a very helpful “Guide For New Transcribers” ebook (in pdf format). This handy little eight page book provides answers to the most important issues which arise as you get acquainted with the system (ex. the audio files system,  social network rules and etiquette, description of the entire transcription process, information on how to get help, etc.). I commit to reading one or two pages of this document per day to my training schedule.

I now have a healthy amount of information to go through in the days ahead. I will spend roughly an hour per day browsing through and interacting on the company’s internal social media network, reading a few pages of the style guide and beginner’s guide, take on some of the roughly one-minute transcription files to practice my skills and earn some income, and contine to read several blog posts (on the growing number of quality transcription-related blogs I am finding through my research) to continually expand my skills and knowledge related to the whole world of transcription. One such quality blog I have discovered recently through one of the transcription forums is :

http://www.alphabetsecretarial.co.uk/blog/

The Alphabet blog has several especially interesting posts which are worth the time, such as :

Twitter – Nonsensical Jibber Jabber or Transcribers on a Global Scale?

In addition to (and in extension of) all my research, I am finding that my blog writing is becoming more important as the amount of information I am working through increases. The writing process allows me to process and organize the experience. It allows a natural pacing which is healthy for someone like me whose brain works very fast and has a tendency to take on too much which overloads the circuitry and ultimately ends up becoming counter-productive. Knowing that my blog posts will be read by other people who are new to the transcription world in the future forces me to explain the whole experience clearly – both to them and myself (since as we all know the old saying “The best way to learn something is to teach it.”). The blog is also serving another important function of giving me something to focus on when there are no jobs available on either of the company’s available job boards, or when the jobs which are available for not appealing. It is easy to get stuck in the mode of checking the boards obsessively – especially when the workflow is thin – and this can become counterproductive in itself. It is better to focus on something which you focus on productively for several hours.

In general I have found writing to be an increasingly important tool in the expanding information age. The world as a whole, is continuing to be transformed into a more densely information-based entity. Think about how much more information we are faced with on a daily basis today compared with just a decade ago. More and more things in the world are becoming digitized. From the increasing digitization of photographic information enabled by the expansion of Smartphones with attached cameras which can directly upload images to various social media sites in mere seconds, to the more elaborate applications allowed by the collection, processing and presentation of data by “Big Data” applications such as Google Maps, which has now collected enough data to allow users to engage in a “virtual street-level visual tour” of any street in the developed (and even undeveloped world) IN ADDITION to locations underwater, on the Moon, Mars, etc. It really is amazing how much information is now being processed and utilized to enhance a growing number of practical (and some not-so-practical) everyday functions for people throughout the world.

Since information (a.k.a. : “content”) is essentially the new currency of the modern digital world it only makes sense that one way we can contribute to the development of this emerging paradigm is to contribute knowledge in various forms. Writing, of course, is a main mechanism by which we transfer information from inside our minds into the external world and thus to the minds of other individuals and the group-mind as a whole (the internet now serving as the physical embodiment of that aggregate, “global mind”. Therefore, I find that writing (especially with the application of that writing in the form of blogging) is an important component to my overall online activity (of which the transcription, editing, research, etc. are all a part). The writing functions as a thread which ties the other efforts together and makes the whole process more efficient and presentable.

Morgan Gist-MacDonald – academic editor, writing coach and owner of Paper Raven Editing company – explains the importance of building an online presence for the writer as a main tool for helping people, in her blog post :

How building your online presence could change your life and your readers’ 

Morgan’s blog is full of informative and practical blog articles which examine all of the important issues for writers in the digital age. It is well worth the time browsing through her posts.

So, my whole strategy in learning and navigating the transcription world is really taking on some good shape and efficiency. Combining the daily research tasks with practice on audio files within my capability and the blogging effort is really taking on the healthy qualities of creative flow which are turning the whole endeavor into an enlightening and somewhat enjoyable one. It should be interesting to see how much progress I will achieve after another month following this general strategy,

In the next post I will discuss how online transcription is a great way to be exposed to new kinds of interesting information and get paid to do a job which helps improve the quality of that information – a real win-win situation.

FrankyFreedom
freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

 

Day 7 : The Revolutionary Merger of Web and Transcription Technology

web transcription

Today started out on a very positive note as the first thing I did was read another one of the very interesting posts on the Transcribe me blog :

What Is Transcription
http://transcribeme.com/blog/what-is-transcription

The TranscribeMe blog has over 100 quality posts and the subjects cover many extensive  aspects of the transcription industry as a whole, and specifically how ongoing advances in the technologies of speech recognition and transcription software – fueled by the evolution of artificial intelligence and crowd sourcing – are serving the needs of a growing number of people, organizations and industries . The blog is, in itself, a decent education in the nature and history/future of the industry. Even if you don’t pass their application process the blog provides a girth of information to advance one’s research and so is well worth the time leisurely reading through. The specific post above describes the history and importance of transcription from as far back in history as the Egyptian empires, describing how the role of ancient scribe was a prestigious position within the social hierarchy, as the scribes did important work transcribing the words of the royal court into written form for public consumption. For a history/anthropology buff like myself this is very interesting information.

I also looked through the second page (out of 11 total pages) which list all of the blog posts with short description and I recorded the urls of the interesting ones on my general notepad file. I will then go back to one post per day and read through it completely. In this way I keep a steady stream of daily blog post information coming in, while at the same time prereading to get a quick idea of what subjects have been covered in the blog over time to get a better picture of the whole operation. This is an effective way to really get a feel for the company. Since I have decided to proceed with their transcription application this research will be helpful. In all of my years of research for various projects I have settled on this general strategy as being most effective for discovering, absorbing and retaining information while maintaining the highest interest level possible (as there is always something interesting waiting to be read in the future, and you prime yourself for the information before actually fully going through the process of consuming it).

My general impression of the whole TranscribeMe site has been so positive that I decide it is definitely worth taking a few minutes away from my time reading their blog posts to go through the application. For the sake of not putting unnecessary extra stress on my already overworked typing fingers I will direct the reader to the following good blog post which gives a good description of the TranscribeMe application process :

Transcription for Beginners at TranscribeMe

The only correction I will make to the above article is that TranscribeMe has now upgraded their application process so that after you pass the initial test you then enter into a well-designed training phase which has an additional “final” exam which you must pass before being cleared to start working on projects.

Before you actually attempt the initial test they give you a free (ebook format) copy of their up-to-date (to the current month) 31-page Style Guide. The style guide in and of itself is a valuable educational tool which is informative for ANY beginner to the transcription world. I strongly advise anyone to file this document with all of your other transcription career development resources. I have a special folder on my computer for this very purpose.

I did a quick browse of the table of contents of the Style Guide and a quick run through of all 31 pages. I then planned to do a full read of the Style Guide in the coming days and also refer to it during the test if necessary (which they suggest you do). The test itself was straight-forward, and considering my experience with transcribing and editing I was able to get through it fairly easily. They informed me immediately upon completion of the test that I had passed and that I was now allowed to move onto the training phase. It was very encouraging to have IMMEDIATE feedback and directions on how to immediately proceed.

Now this whole test experience was another good sign that TranscribeMe has designed their whole system professionally and with considerable planning. They provide you with the valuable, free in-house style guide (which you can use in the future even if you fail the initial exam), they make you feel comfortable during the testing process, and then they give you immediate feedback and directions on how to proceed through to their valuable, interacting training program. In other words, you feel like they are really making an effort to facilitate the process of bringing you into the operation, while at the same time looking out for your need to develop skills and transition most smoothly into the system. The company makes it clear in their overall presence and communications that they value their human capital and are always open to suggestions on ways to improve the operation. This kind of transparency and flexibility are key elements for success in the new virtual global economy.

The training program itself is very informative. It is organized into modules, and you can select “save” on any of the training pages and the system will record where you stopped so you can continue from that point the next time you log on. I personally like this save feature as I believe it is worth taking a day or two to go through the training modules at a comfortable pace, especially considering that even after you pass the training exam you still have to wait a few days for the administrators to clear your account to begin working on jobs. I also suggest simultaneous referring to the style guide as you proceed through the training.

The training starts with a hands-on, interactive module on how to navigate the TranscribeMe system as a transcriber. To give you a sense of the kind and quality of information in the training, here is an excellent introduction video available on the “Transcribe Me? Training Videos” YouTube channel :

Now that I have passed the application stage and have some resources to work through I can take my time to take it all in. As there is a girth of information related to the company and the various aspects related to the operation (ex. the technology, knowledge of the industry, the company culture, etc.) I think it is best to proceed slowly and steadily and to build a strong foundation in order to best utilize the resources available and thus obtain the most benefit in terms of my long-term transcription/editing career goals.

At this point, the resources I have to work on include : the blog posts, the individual company web site pages, the social media profiles (ex. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) of the key administrators and co-workers, the company’s internal social media platform (a vibrant Facebook-style communication platform hub for all workers in the company), the style guide and training program, and the numerous YouTube videos and articles throughout the web related to the company.

I will thus narrow down my research focus to the TranscribeMe resources for at least the next few days (perhaps weeks) and put off on evaluating new online transcription company web sites, as this will lead to the greatest gain in long-term productivity at this time.

In the next post I will explore my findings as I work through these resources, and discuss some interesting aspects of the new revolutionary technology being developed and used by the TranscribeMe company, and how that technology is aiding in the process of CREATING work opportunities in the new emerging global virtual economy.

“Day 5 : Evaluating Online Transcription Companies”

judge gavel

It has been roughly a week and with a little ambition I have managed to connect with an online transcription company which is feeding me a slow but steady trickle of projects to practice on and make enough income to keep afloat while I utilize some of the many free online resources to build more work and increase my skill level. I have also connected with the wider global online transcription community which is providing some excellent leads and reviews on the numerous online transcription companies and links to their web site and other contact information. While I continue to evaluate the new projects as they appear on the “available jobs” board of the company’s online system, the reality is that many of the jobs tend to be boring and/or above my skills level. Luckily, some of them are adequate and interesting (roughly one per day or two), but I am thinking that it would be ideal to add another online company or two to the mix to increase potential work. In addition, in the current system, once you accept a job you can only work on one at a time. So, for instance, if you take on a transcribing  job which has a 15 hour deadline you will not be able within that time to accept any other projects – for instance, a shorter editing job which you could complete in two hours while you are working on the transcription project. Ideally, you want to be in a situation where you have the most options open, especially considering that the jobs come onto the board and are swooped up by other transcribers rather quickly.

So I begin the process of assessing some of the other online transcription sites throughout the internet. I figure that it will take some time to go through each site (as different sites will have different designs, functionality and amount of content). To save valuable time and effort, it seems that the most efficient way to proceed is to go through the web pages, group and forum posts which have reviews of the various companies which have been written by transcribers who have had experience working for them. The reviews usually contain some valuable information which helps you narrow down which companies are more appropriate for your needs and goals. For instance, some companies specialize in different kinds of transcription (ex. podcast, academic, interview, focus group, etc.). Some companies have a more polished user interface which is highly automated (including the application test) while other are less so (having you submit your application and correspondence via email).

Since I am a big fan of automation and communication I decide to seek out those companies whose system is most automated AND who have a strong web presence (including quality blog) and significant communication resources with the general public, customers and the transcribers who work for the operation. I believe that in the modern digital age these are ESSENTIALS to the progress of any business (especially an online-based one) and the bottom line is that if you work for dysfunctional companies it only ends up limiting you in the grand scheme of things. The operating costs of running a business in the digital age are low enough that skimping on quality is no longer an option. You also lose out on gaining the more quality and positive experience of working with a better organization, and this builds a better resume into the future.

There are numerous transcription-related sites which have compiled very helpful lists (often with reviews) of the plethora of companies out there. Different lists focus on different criteria (ex. lists for : newbie, general/legal/medical transcription, overseas companies, etc.). The following list is a good one to get you started. Just go down the list and click through to the ones which resonate best with you :

List of 30 Stunning Transcription Companies Hiring Now

Since there are many sites which have already listed and reviewed the various transcription companies based on their experience applying and actually working for those companies AND since I am a specifically experience onlined and social media marketing guru-of-sorts, I think it would be most helpful for me to focus on analyzing the web presentation, site functionality and interactivity qualities of some of the companies I have evaluated. I believe that this is most helpful to newbies (and even some veterans) as it doesn’t depend on actually being ACCEPTED into the companies. That is, I am focusing my analysis on the features of these companies which anyone is able to see at the point of arriving at the company’s web site and through the application process (whether or not you actually pass the transcription test and are accepted). In this way, we are looking at the overall operation itself AND focusing on the free content provided by the company to the general public (in addition to merely the prospective transcribers). It’s like when you evaluate a company when you are decided whether or or not to buy shares of its stock. You have to look at the fundamentals. That is, the big picture of how the operation presents itself and operates in both the short and long term senses.

Since I have found that evaluating two or three of the company sites per day is a most ideal workload I will give my analysis of two of these companies in this post and then follow up with two more per future posts as we work through this process. I am adding this regular analysis of the companies because I believe this is an important part of the process of being a transcriptionist for several main reasons. Firstly, companies are constantly coming and going, so it is beneficial to stay on top of changes in the industry. Secondly, the technology is constantly evolving and so new companies are arriving on the scene which are much more functional and thus can more efficiently help you achieve your goals. Thirdly, the good companies often have blogs where they regularly post quality posts packed with information which can be a valuable addition to your overall research effort. We will thus look specifically at some of these posts as we proceed.

Going down the list of 30 companies (above) I started with the Tigerfish company, which was recommended by one of my new contacts in the LinkedIn group. My first impression of their web site was positive. The design is funky and simple. The “about us” page lists the six key people in the company (but without any bio information). They have a blog but it only consists of two posts and those are simply “about the company” type – that is, not geared towards providing information which is valuable to the visitor to the site, ESPECIALLY not the prospective transcriber who is thinking about applying to the company in addition to building their transcription skills and connections. Finally, the employment section link is hard to find (the link is a simple text one and buried way down at the bottom of the main page). When you finally do make it to their employment page they give you a basic rundown of their transcript employment opportunities (focusing on the fact that they are generally overloaded with applications) and then guide you through their rather tedious (compared to the more automated companies) process of downloading their style guide and audio test file and submitting your test via email.

Now, while I am sure that people over Tigerfish are very nice, San Franciscan hipsters who are fun to work with, from my perspective as prospective transcriber they are just not giving me much to chew on. I feel like I have arrived at the site and they have “given me the hand” in the sense of not giving me much of a desire/reason to connect – other than to look at the funky pictures on their Facebook page or the non-interactive info (which doesn’t even have links to the profiles of the key members of the company who are listed on their “about us” page) on their LinkedIn company page.

After evaluating all of the handful of pages of the site I just didn’t feel the love and decided NOT to proceed with the application process. Perhaps if their blog had some informative and regular posts I would at least connect there and/or sign up for an email newletter, but this is just not currently the case. Maybe TigerFish just simply doesn’t put much focus on the online transcriber recruiting effort. Maybe they have more than enough business through their offline operation. For someone like me, however, who is looking to build connections and work with companies who are utilizing the power of the internet to its fullest potential, it is just better to move on to the next company on the list.

*** I hope that anyone reading this post understands that my motive for writing these critiques is purely constructive. I am not taking a “cheap shot” at the above company, but merely providing marketing feedback from a person who has engaged with their web presence based on my own personal goals and needs. Different people will react differently. I also hope that my specific suggestions may be taken as constructive criticism, and that people who evaluate these companies use their own judgement.***

With one evaluation complete for the day I move down the list in search of another. Since I don’t want to spend more of my valuable research time today on another potentially incongruent company AND since the above list only provides one-sentence descriptions of the companies (as opposed to more informative review) I decide to follow up on a lead given to me by a member of the LinkedIn group for the Rev company. A quick Google search pulled up an informative review by someone who actually passed the application process and worked for them :  Rev.Com For Transcribers – A Detailed Review . After reading the review I was motivated to follow through to the company web site to find out more and do an evaluation.

The Rev.com web site is top-notch. It has visually stimulating yet clear and organized layout of information and some snazzy imagery (both static and animated) which is very user-friendly. They give you the lowdown on all the information you need to know and do it in a quick matter (which is very important for busy people online in this modern age, whoe time and general attention span is limited). Their recruitment section for freelancer transcribers is thorough, well automated and presents a very inviting image with raving reviews by current employees (along with their names and faces) to create a very nice feeling of connection. From a marketing perspective, these guys/gals are pros.

By the time you are finished reading the comprehensive yet concise information about their opportunity (ex. pay rate, job perks, testimonials, list of “Fortune 500” companies they do work for, etc.) you are all pumped up to hit that shiny rad “Apply Now” button, strategically positioned smack in the middle of the screen.

The fun is only beginning, however, as you proceed through the well executed application process. They state that the application process requires 60 minutes, but when I hit the rather heavy writing section I decided it would be best to take my time alternating for several hours (or perhaps a whole day) between producing a proper piece of ~6,000 word writing and reading through their other web site pages and blog posts. It is better not to rush through this, as you want to present your skills as best as possible – especially as a newbie trying to enter the field.

While the company’s blog has a decent number of articles, the topics are a bit random and disorganized, and the main blog page itself is not only misleadingly titled “Article Archives” (which likely prevents it from being listed properly in the search engines as a legitimate blog), but also, in my opinion, fails to provide content on issues of MOST importance to its target market :

http://blog.rev.com/articles

For instance, while they have some well-written posts related to the subject of TRANSLATION, such as:

5 Tips for Freelance Translators

They don’t have EVEN ONE section or article directly related to the subject of transcription, out of the 100+ posts up on the main “archived articles” page. This means that all of the freelance transcriptionists who go through the application process and want to read more about the company’s activities related to transcription while they wait (likely several days or more) to receive their email of acceptance or rejection are not able to continue spending some time reading through informative blog posts which will give them a head start in becoming more familiar with the company, its operations, and transcription in general. As one of the fundamentally important elements of online marketing is to keep your market ENGAGED and CONNECTED this seems to be one specific thing that Rev has neglected. I hope they will address this in the future for the benefit of the transcriptionists AND the marketing success of their company.

It ultimately took me a full 24 hours to properly complete the application. It was a bit of hard work to write the essay and transcribe the two audio files, but I was convinced that my performance on both was up to par (especially for the writing component, as I am an experienced and published photojournalist and blogger). I submitted the application and continued trying to find articles on their blog which could keep me busy while I waited for their response.

At the end of the day I had made good progress. I had done a thorough analysis of two prospective online transcription companies (a process which I will continue to incorporate into my research process) and I completed one full application to one which fulfilled my criteria. After submitting the Rev application I spent a few hours researching and blogging and then went to sleep feeling quite confident that my application to Rev would impress them, and that I would likely be granted acceptance into their team of transcriptionists. However, in the worst case scenario that I am NOT accepted there are plenty of other online transcription companies operating now, so it will just be a matter of continuing to find, research, evaluate and apply to others in the future.