Creature of Habit – Personal Brand Takes Time

I was driving on 206 North this afternoon feeling a little nostagic about my first job when I was 13 at the old Newton Drive-In turned flea market turned Lowes. My how times have changed. Ironically enough, when I worked at the flea market for Eli Rapkin, we sold hardware tools and accessories. Somethings things get bigger but never change at all.

I was about to go through the little stone tunnel when I saw a very friendly older woman in her plastic white chair on the side of the road waving at each passing car. For many many years, her husband sat on that very same chair waving and smiling to all the cars and trucks. Sometimes for 3 hours a day and sometimes for 7 or more. His reputation grew and grew and soon the papers got a hold of his story and spread the word even further. He had no agenda. He had no interest in being in the press. He didn’t even expect money or gratitude. He was just a friendly retired gentleman that wanted everyone to know that life is about moments and peace and you should realize the wonders you have and embrace them.

He was a warm and gentle man who passed away a number of years ago but the chair remaind as a reminder of how he impacted so many lives without taking a step. Now his wife is carrying on his tradition with the same charm and hometown sincerity that we desperately need.

The magic of this story is that this very simple man discovered something that it took the internet, corporations, global expansion and hundreds of well paid consultants to figure out…the importance of a personal brand.

He looked at himself and created a very simple plan. Wake up, shower, eat breakfast, sit and wave. He harnessed that brand and over time that brand became a reputation. One of consistancy, warmth, dedication, commitment and community awareness. He revolutioned the idea of a personal brand without the internet, without a Google page, without Facebook, without a personal consultant and without dare I say Twitter. He reached his audience one wave at a time.

When you are looking to create a personal brand, look in the mirror, find out who you are and most importantly keep it simple.


Big Brother is Watching

Big Brother is watching via George Orwell meets Pee Wee Herman. Meet the world of Justin TV. The first 24 hour live streaming video sharing site. Whether you have a web cam on your head as you go for your morning walk, having people watch you have coffee, watching a staring dog or having a cam on a hockey game, the world of real time video is upon us.

After spending many many many minutes watching this Emo kid intently gaming on Playstation, switching to the Scuzzi channel to watch Scuzzi wag his tail and then finally ending it with Rob drinking coffee and then moving over to pick out a new section of the paper, I began to question how this site gets 31 million views daily.

Then I found it. The possibility of witnessing a live crime creates an element of anticipation. Living in a world of free uninhibited voyeurism with the chance of criminal activity is such a deviant thought but one many live vicariously through.

Can I recommend Justin TV as the future of live feed video or do I see value in a professional sense? I am going to defer responding to that for now and give myself a little more time to let this sink in.

On a direct comparison note, I do highly recommend
Is there a connection other than an added letter “e”, No. But it seems to flow well with my train of thought.

Justine is witty, charming, sexy and does great impersonations of customer service specialists and police officers. She has a series of videos providing commentary in a one act, one actor setting on current trends, technology and common acts of rational insanity.

See her, believe in her and just have fun with it.

To Justin and Justine…I commend you both for showing innovation and rational thought to an completely irrational time in our lives.

Employee of the Month

If you are looking for professional inspiration, look no further than Astrid Thoening of Parsippany, New Jersey.
On Thursday, September 24th, Astrid went to work as she has been doing for the Thornton Insurance Company for 37 years handling financial records, payroll and typing documents and contracts. This day was a little different. Astrid was showered with roses, chocolates and cards to celebrate her birthday.

It is not uncommon for us to work on our birthday. It is another way to get cake. Who can say no to cake. Mmmmmm cake. Sorry I was sidetracked. Unfortunately, there was a lack in creativity on the birthday cards. Not through any fault of Astrid’s friends and family but the card makers themselves.

You see, Hallmark, American Greetings and many others do not see a revenue driven value in handling a diverse assortment of Happy 100th Birthday cards. Yes, Astrid Thoening, born September 24, 1909 turned 100 and is still and active contributing member of the workforce.

“It’s another day — it’s hard to explain,” Thoenig said of turning 100. “I don’t feel old, and I don’t think old.”
When asked about how technology has evolved and what she has done to move from pen and ink to the computer age, Astrid said “Thinking young” was her key to understanding new technology and going with the flow.

This type of work ethic does lead to its fair share of problems. Her son wants to retire.
“I’m 67, and one of our jokes is: ‘How can I retire before my mother does?'” John Thornton said. He says his mother is a meticulous worker, reviewing contracts, preparing the payroll, making sure bills are paid, and is always pleasant company (AP).

She works with her son and grandson and could not be happier about coming into work each and every day, interacting with her family, the clients and the staff. Physically, Astrid feels wonderful and is looking forward to continue to work.

As you struggle to get out of bed in the morning or fear the recession will not end, remember Astrid.

She witnessed the Great Depression, The Gas Shortage, World War I, World War II, Korean War, the turmoil of the 60’s, The Rise of Communism, Vietnam, The Gulf War, The words of Truman, FDR and IKE, Talking Films, and the pandemic of 1918 and 1919 that killed 30 to 50 million worldwide including her sister and father in a matter of hours.

Astrid knows we will persevere as should you.

Let us raise a glass and say “Cheers” to Astrid Thoening, our Employee of the Century.

This piece was written in 2009.  In 2013, Forbes wrote 7 Life Secrets of Centenarians and Astrid, at 103 years old was still coming to work each day.

Social Media is eating my brain…and I love it

Social Media is eating my brain…and I love it

I recently created a Google profile page for Hewitt Associates ( as a way to align our corporate website with our social branding/media strategy links. Now we have a single platform with feeds to our Twitter links, Facebook Fan Site, Career Module, Global Location Map, YouTube videos, Linkedin Community Groups, Crowd Sourcing initiatives, Webcast/Podcast links and the answer to the universe. Of course we are not giving out the answer to the universe that easily. This must be earned through trust, loyalty and commitment. Translated, you must be a fan. Did anyone catch the shameless plug from the opening paragraph? I think I hid that quite well.

That is what we call a subtle yet slightly shameless plug. A completely shameless plug would be to ask you to follow Hewitt Career Opportunities on Twitter @hewittcareers or get text updates by texting Hewcareers to 77950 or join the Hewitt Fan Site on Facebook or get information on Hewitt’s Diversity programs by texting HewDiversity to 77950. That is just plain shameless and lacks professionalism and tact. Ultimately, just as effective.

If that thrust into the black hole of Web 2.0 didn’t send your head spinning, well this is just the beginning.

Interesting enough the term “Web 2.0” was coined ten years ago in a 1999 article entitled “Fragmented Future” by Darcy DiNucci where she stated:

“The Web we know now, which loads into a browser window in essentially static screenfuls, is only an embryo of the Web to come. The first glimmerings of Web 2.0 are beginning to appear, and we are just starting to see how that embryo that might develop the Web, will be understood not as screenfuls of text and graphics but as a transport mechanism, the ether through which interactivity happens. It will appear on your computer screen, on your TV set, your car dashboard, your cell phone, hand-held game machines and maybe even your microwave”

Perhaps a modern Notradamus or pre-modern Hal 2000.

To quote Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O’Rourke) in Poltergeist, “They’re Here” and they are not going away.

Social Media is a part of corporate infrastructure. Some have realized that and taken action accordingly, some are hesitant to take the plunge, while others believe it is a passing fad that will soon fall on its face. Is it innovative or just a more efficient way of communications and business operations? That is a burning question that we deal with on a daily basis.

If you are proud of something why not shout it out to the world. Now, we can take that phrase in a literal sense. I am proud of where I work, who I work with and how my part plays into the success of this organization. Why shouldn’t we share this and take advantage of the tools and technology at our disposal. Web 2.0 is fun, sexy, creative, engaging, addictive and a way to be a gamer in the non-gaming world.

Global expansion is not a new view on business operations. Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric coined the term “boundryless”. He believed that a successful professional is a global professional. General Electric developed a three year global Human Resource rotational program that allows a graduate associate to participate in a program that includes rotations through two or three business units and one global rotation. This program was developed almost twenty years ago. As products and services become more global in development, production, sales, and implementation, the web has become an invaluable tool for implementation, innovative change and evolution.

I have a journal. For those Gen-Y and Gen-Z and Gen-Waiting for 2012 to come and swallow the earth readers, that is an old school blog. It is a pen and paper version of thoughts and ideas encompassed with a personality and bit of flare. For many years, this has been my personal salvation. My escape from reality to a very personal side of my being. That being said, I have a blog as well ( I am proud to say I have two dedicated readers that live vicariously through my well chosen anecdotes. Being willing to change does not mean you must give up your entire sense of value.

We are on the brink where there is a fine line between being great and being unemployed. Be visible, be unique, be creative, be bold, continuously improve, stay informed, continue evolving, train and re-train, get published, get noticed, stand above the rest, be a part of a community, make strong network connections, develop a new idea, embrace change, redefine yourself or develop a personal brand.

Raise of hands….Who has not heard someone say or personally used one of these catch phrases to define their current professional status? Believe it or not, they all ring true. We as professionals are a part of an unprecedented time in the midst of an expanding population boom. Numbers are growing incrementally yet opportunities are shrinking. The avenues of communication are growing and the voices coming from all directions but the ability to stand out is becoming slimmer. Do we cope? Do we dive? Do we maintain the status quo?

There is no right or wrong answer. The business world and its integration into the social framework will continue to evolve. Traditional relationships will remain a vital part of our being but the growing number of virtual contacts and interface will grow. Mobile media and technology are allowing us to interface in real time twenty four hours a day and make critical decisions and implementations faster than Speed Racer ever could have imagined.
Times will continue to change. There will be growing pains and there will be wonder.

I am embracing wonder. This week at the National Black MBA Conference in New Orleans, Hewitt will be introducing its Diversity SMS application and conducting a conference wide giveaway utilizing only the mobile technology. Last month, Twitter was used to promote career opportunities, key news feeds and align with Talent Acquisition professionals instantaneously, A Benefits and Health & Welfare Community site sponsored by Hewitt in four months has become the second largest Employee Benefits Interactive Community Site on Linkedin. A new Facebook fan site is being launched with expectations to grow the community globally and become an integral tool for clients, associates, vendors, alumni and candidates. January saw the launch of an Alumni Network Site that has grown to 3800 former associates offering news, featured alumni, career opportunities, and shared successes. A series of podcast and webcast interviews with industry leaders has been introduced. Virtual web interviews are being piloted as we speak for remote candidates. Associate speakers are being streamlined live through the internet for all associates and colleagues to view. These are just a tip of some of the initiatives that are leading us forward with the assistance of Social Media.

I believe in the future. I believe we have only tapped into a small portion of the potential these tools have to offer. To say I am excited about the possibilities would be a gross understatement.

I have often been asked by fellow colleagues that are in a career transition, “What can I do now?” Often I find myself telling them “Stay Focused and Get Noticed”. We all have talents and skills that make us stand apart. Utilize those talents and the web tools and create a personal brand that will help you stand out.

I was asked today why I use the title “Talent Acquisition” and not recruiter or sourcer? We don’t hire individuals or just meet headcount numbers. We are acquiring, training and harnessing a specific and unique set of skills to help build on the strength and success of our organization. The key to any company success is the talent. That talent must have the right skills, correct fit into the culture; have a desire to grow and a feeling of empowerment. We play a role in all in all stages.

I’m Still Standing

Throughout my illustrious professional career I am proud to say that every company that I have ever supported is still actively a part of the business infrastructure including the mom and pop liquor store and movie theater that jetted me into the world of work for pay. Included in this mix are AT&T, Comcast Cable, United Defense, Darden Restaurents, Thomson Reuters and Hewitt Associates. Though times have changed, things have remained the same. Of course I am going to explain in further detail.

At Comcast we recorded a weekly phone message with all of our openings. You couldn’t screw up the 15 page script or you had to start all over again. I remember that was the first time I realized I hated my voice. Computers…we had two for the entire recruitment team. We had an annual anti-union meeting for all associates including signs and more file cabinets than staff.

Yet months prior I worked for Financial Royalty. The immortal and gold plated Goldman Sachs, the crown prince of Wall Street. Associates had suits that had their own insurance policies, limos would take you home after 8 PM to anywhere in the tri-state area, the trading floor made or broke fortunes and respect was not a term thrown around when you hit the 85th floor and stood in awe over the Mahagony table, 300 prominent partners, and monitors for every world market streaming live. Of course as I stood in awe, I got a hand shake and a very candid discussion from John Corzine. Enough said.

Venture to the Midwest and the hussle and bussle of money, deadlines and cut throat competition is disguided by hoe downs, tractors, touchy feeling team culture and just a more relaxed way of conducting business.

Now I work from home, in a virtual office, drinking my virtual coffee and admiring the virtual art on my virtual wall in front of my virtual computer.

We are evolving but have things changed. Our goals in Human Resources are to providing a conflict free setting open to free thought and creative ideas. We want to ensure the safety, security and wellness of our associates.

Technology may expand, cultures vary, paces differ but overall we still maintain the same ideals and beliefs that we had as we began our careers.

There’s an App for That

New York Observer in their inaugural issue of Observer Playground asked prominent New York City mothers what apps they use for their modern high tech mommy lifestyle. Author Jill Kargman, has the New York Times ( and Christies Auction House ( saved on her mobile partner. Kelly Killoren, co-start of The Real Housewives of New York City has ibowl (Bowling App), imoodphone, imaps and ishoptheworld in her Iphone. Designer Cynthia Rowley lives and dies with Surf Reports (an app that tells the range of waves all around the world) as her family are avid surfers. The value of technology does not have to diminish the value of the passions we have grown to love in our lives.

In the midst all of the hussle and bussle of innovation, recession, optimism and deep depression is Katie Visco ( This twenty-three year old on March 29, 2009 began a jog. A little different than our normal daily routine. Now 2000 miles in, Katie is trying to become the youngest female to ever run across the United States. Her goals are very simple:

Inspire, Empower, Make History, Fundraise/Promote

Inspire – People to find and follow their passions
Empower – Individuals to connect to what gives them life and pave their own lane to pursue it, while making a positive impact on the world
Make History – To become the youngest female to ever run across the United States and complete her personal dream
Fundraise/Promote – Girls on the Run, a worthy charity that empowers young girls through running.

During her journey Katie has had joiners, families that have offered their homes and meals, school and companies giving donations to help her cause and children and adults becoming inspired by her story.

By December this journey that began in Boston will end in San Diego a long way from home but a lifetime of memories.

Whether you are gainfully employed, unemployed, raising a family or losing faith in a life we have grown so comfortable with, don’t forget your dreams. I published a collection of poetry and photography last year and through its grass roots efforts a number of very talented professionals have sought advice on publishing. For many it was a dream that slipped through the cracks of reality and now as lifestyles change and decisions are re-evaluated, many are starting to wake up to a new reality.

Continue to harness your skills and continue to pursue training and education but take time to do that painting, write that book, go sky diving, see Europe, learn to jet sky, bye a sailboat and let the wind guide you or just lay on a deserted island for a week away from all modern comforts. Dream every day and don’t be afraid to make some of those dreams a reality.

Stay Connected…Build Your Personal Professional Community

Stay Connected…Build Your Personal Professional Community

Mark A. Leon, Talent Acquisition Specialist – Hewitt Associates

As a Talent Acquisition Specialist, it is critical to develop a strong community of trusted colleagues, friends and associates that can help build your circle of growth.

Each day we pledge to ourselves to Pay it Forward. I will help you and you will will in turn help another.

In the last two days I have help two young professionals find homes and the feeling of graditude is more than I can explain in words.

Whether the goals is to help your organization, a friend, a colleague or someone that cannot help themselves there is personal reward to be found.

I would like to stay connected and help others.

If you would like to join my community please link with me: