Security Guard Closes Draw Bridge on Innovative Job Seeker

by Rich DeMatteo on January 13, 2011 · 1 comment

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Ted Williams - Photo credit http://beyond-the-norms.org/

By now you’ve probably heard the incredibly story of Ted Williams, America’s favorite homeless person.  Alcohol, drugs, and “a few other things” eventually led to Ted’s unfortunate situation, but he was blessed with a golden radio voice that is comparable to a mix of Jesus and Frank Sinatra.

Passing cars would pay a scary looking Ted to drop  some radio magic, which eventually was recorded and went viral.  Job offers poured in for Ted after an interview on NBC’s “Today Show”, including rumored offers and interest with the Cleveland Cavaliers, The NFL, MTV, and others.  Good for you Ted, good for you!

Poor Tommy Boy

Now on to the unfortunate story of Tommy Elwell, an unemployed man from St Cloud, MN.  Tommy has nearly 5 years of sports writing under his belt, and a 2-year degree in Sales, Marketing, and Management.  He’s smart, innovate, edgy, and extremely brave, which you’ll clearly see from what I’m about to tell you next.

On January 10th, 2011, Tommy fancied himself up in a suit, created a sign to wear over his professional attire stating his unemployment, printed out a number of resumes, and then walked through The Minneapolis Skyway System (an enclosed pedestrian footbridge that connects various buildings).

Tommy's Custom "I need a job" sign

Before I tell you the unfortunate ending to his brilliant idea, watch an excited Tommy as his adventure begins…

So, what was the outcome?  Tommy was told to leave by a security guard at the City Center building.   Prior to the bouncing of Tommy, he was successful in handing out a whopping two resumes.  When I asked Tommy about the experience, this is what he told me:

I thought I would go out on a limb and try something drastic and out of the ordinary to help my job search. Along with handing out a couple resumes I got lot’s of funny looks, laughs, and a few people saying “that is brilliant”. After being asked to leave I was more annoyed than mad because I was not bugging anyone, I was not panhandling, and I only talked to people who talked to me. I guess that is how you get treated for going out on a limb on your job search.

As Tommy departed from the Skyway System, he created his very own exit interview video…

COTJ’s Thoughts

Tommy looked professional, had a positive outlook, and didn’t have a scary homeless blowout hairstyle like Ted Williams.  What gives, America?

We preach that innovation in the job search helps seekers stand out, but instances like this are demoralizing and shut down more creative ideas from forming.  Tommy wasn’t bothering anyone, and only spoke to those who engaged him.  A job search is about creating attention, and Tommy’s short-lived campaign did just that.

I understand buildings have rules, but security could have handled this situation differently.  Along with patting down Tommy to make sure he’s not carrying anything dangerous, they could have insisted he kept moving in the same path down the Sky System.  I think that would have been e a nice little compromise for Tommy boy.  He gets to walk through all 7 miles of the Sky System and have short conversations with interested pedestrians, and security can feel they did a great job making their building feel safe.

What do you think?

  • How do you feel about Tommy’s job search campaign?
  • Would he be better off walking down a busy street with his sign?
  • Are you brave enough to pull this off?

More on Tommy
Tommy’s dream is to become a beat writer for a MLB or NHL team.  He’d also love to get into public relations or media relations.  You can contact Tommy on Twitter @Izzy_Presley.

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20 comments
Jessica
Jessica

I don't know anything about the Minneapolis Skyway System and the security guards who frequent the place. I definitely think the situation could have been handled differently. But, I don't think a different outcome would have helped Tommy land a job. Creativity and innovation are great in a job search, if they match the type of job you are looking for. In Tommy's case, he uses a handwritten sandwich board and doesn't tell you what kind of job he is looking for. It says, he has a resume and his salary requirements. The resume part is decent, but I would still like more information about the type of job he is looking for. The real problem I have is with the salary requirements. Who brings up salary requirements before the first interview. In my humble opinion, it looks like Tommy is creating this big scene hoping to just get paid. He ultimately had good intentions, but I think his plan fall a bit short.

Tommy Elwell
Tommy Elwell

The salary requirements on the back were really meant as a joke. I created a scene to find a job. I wanted to keep the sign on the front simple so people would ask me what I was looking for.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Jessica - I agree and disagree with you. The purpose of any job is really to get paid, and it's OK for recruiters to know the person is money hungry. Obviously you want to let them know you are passionate, but when someone throws a campaign like this, the purpose is to gain attention. Tommy wanted to get his resume to as many people as possible, so that it would create a buzz. Salary or no salary, he would have done that. If Tommy would have consulted me beforehand I might have suggested a few tweaks, but the purpose of this post was really how it was cut short. Even if Tommy would have handed out 20 resumes, it would have been a success. Those resumes would be talked about by many, and someone might eventually know someone who needs a courageous innovative person like him. But yes, I agree. The salary is questionable, but it doesn't really matter. He created a buzz, even with him being sent home early.

Jessica
Jessica

You bring up a great point, Rich. There is no doubt that Tommy's plan was innovative. But you like said, I think it could have been fine-tuned a bit more he would have been more successful. That being said, it was definitely a creative way to market one's self.

Steve
Steve

I commend him for going out of his way to land a position. Sports positions are extremely competitive and limited so individuals must always be open to move around the country. Pay is usually awful and a single position can get hundreds of applicants. As I responded on to your twitter account, I worked in sports from 2002-2003 and I moved from NY to California for $8/hr just to work in sports. After getting laid-off, I swore I would never go back into especially since it took me 1.5 years to land that position. Don't get me wrong, I love being around the game but the lifestyle was just not for me anymore. He cannot give up the good fight and must network with the right people to land those types of position. It is not what you know; it is who you know, especially in sports. Good luck to him! Regards, Steve

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Steve - Thanks for stopping by. I can imagine how tough the sports industry is. It's all worth it when you land the job, but it must be frustrating at times.

Keith McIlvaine
Keith McIlvaine

This seems crazy to me. If Tommy had instead walked around handing out resume's (like others do with flyers) then he would have been okay to stay but because he had a placard on he was asked to leave? Great idea by Tommy to use lunch as a networking approach and a shame that he was asked to leave. I guess a guy in a suit isn’t the type of guy security wants hanging… who knew?

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Keith - Nutty, right? The second he tosses a sign on, people think he's crazy. If his sign had something like "Collecting money for kids with cancer", I wonder what would have happened? It's absurd!

Grace Boyle
Grace Boyle

Wow, you have such a good point and thank you for highlighting a story equally as interesting but one that didn't receive the glorious media attention that Ted did. People are SO sensitive and I just don't understand why. Why don't police or security guards remove people who solicit meals or are homeless in clean, public areas? I doubt he was hardly bugging anyone and I think what he did was interesting. You really could come across anyone from the Mayor to a VP who is hiring. Too bad...and great post :)

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Grace - Thanks for the comment. Yep, people really are sensitive, you're right! It really is a shame it was cut short. I wonder who Tommy might have run into if his campaign was given a full tour!

Tommy Elwell
Tommy Elwell

Those were my thoughts exactly. You don't know who you are going to run into on their lunch break. I thought if the right person saw it I would be golden.

Steven Rothberg CollegeRecruiter.com
Steven Rothberg CollegeRecruiter.com

Those of us who live in Minneapolis know how ridiculous it is that the City Center security guards kicked out a guy looking for a job. It is probably the most crime infested building in downtown Minneapolis. You can't walk 100 feet without being "asked" if you have any spare change or being required to dodge a group of six teens walking shoulder-to-shoulder with "just try it" look on their faces. I made the mistake of using a cash machine there shortly after moving to Minneapolis. If a cop hadn't walked in to do the same, I would have had the pleasure of making a charitable donation to some less than needy group. So rather than kicking out the punks for vagrancy, disorderly conduct, solicitation, or any number of other violations, the security guards pick on a guy is clearly isn't a threat. Hmmm. I wonder if they figured that he'd be an easy way to justify their existence.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Steven - Wow, so that place seems a bit rough. I'm even more upset about the story now that you're telling me all of this. That's very ridiculous. I feel the way you do about the guards. Just wanted some easy work. Thanks for the comment.

Andrew
Andrew

There's a pretty big difference between their approaches, and you can tell just from looking at their signs. Ted's said, "I have a God-given gift of voice. I am an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times." Tommy's just says "Have degree & resume. Unemployed & need career!" Though Ted's sign is a lot smaller and more crowded, you at least have an idea of what he can do. With Tommy, it's as vague as can be - there's nothing telling you what skills or talents he has, besides wearing a homemade sandwich board. In fact, the blurb about him at the bottom of the post was more info than on both of his posters. Maybe if he had included some of that info, it would have been helpful to anyone thinking of giving him a job, or for those who looked, laughed, and complimented him - maybe they would have followed him on Twitter, and posted about him to others who could have done something to help. Ted Williams found success because of a viral video. Tommy could have found a way to make his sign viral if he'd added some way for people to talk about him specifically, instead of as "some dude with a sign on the Skyway". Or if he'd made a bigger stink about being kicked out, it might have been picked up on the news, though that might be such a good thing. Also, Ted Williams just went into rehab, so that might cut his job prospects a bit short for a while.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Andrew - thanks for the comment! The difference here is that Ted Williams wasn't really looking for a job. He was looking for a buck or two, and never realized a job would land in his lap. I honestly don't think Ted was trying to find success, he just needed a buck or two to get by. While I talked about Ted, the post wasn't meant to compare Ted and Tommy. It was more about how Tommy's efforts were cut short by a security guard, and how he was brave enough to do what many wouldn't. I agree that more information would have been great, but Tommy's campaign worked just fine. He just wanted to grab quick attention while walking by, and too much information on his signs wouldn't have supported his goal. The problem Tommy faced was that his campaign was cut short. He was able to hand out a few resumes, but a ton more would have been handed out if not closed out by security. And I did hear that about Ted. What a shame for him, but hopefully after rehab people will still consider him.

Tommy Elwell
Tommy Elwell

I have a feeling if I would have made a big stink about it that I would have been arrested...definitely didn't need that. Through my connections I know some media folks and nearly had a camera crew down there to do a bit on what I was doing. Now I wish they would have been down there so I could have got getting kicked out on tape. I just wanted to keep the sign simple knowing that anybody that talked to me about it would get the lowdown on what I can do along with my resume.

Tommy Elwell
Tommy Elwell

I even shaved off my Elvis chops to look more professional! Thanks again for telling my story.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Thanks, Shane! Looking forward to your new product! Sounds very exciting!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

It was a story that needed to be told, Tommy. Very brave of you, and I'm sure if you keep on trying things, something will come your way shortly.

Shane Mac
Shane Mac

Great story. Thanks for posting Rich. Tommy, You seem like the video / creative type so shoot me an email at shane@sayhellothere.com and lets see if I can't set you up with my new product getting ready to launch this weekend (http://sayhellothere.com) and get you hired. Thanks, Shane Mac