02/01/2012 09:34 am ET | Updated Apr 02, 2012

Job Hunting Skills From the School of Hard Knocks

I need a job, boy, one more than I have
Last night I fell asleep looking through the wanted ads.

Matraca Berg

I spent a day with a high-powered, high profile friend who mentioned that over 700 people a year ask him to help them get a new job.

He's not in the employment business, but he is super well-connected.

Every now and then he gets the right person to the right job.

Most businesses fail in the first year. Few make it to year five. Since I am hitting year 30, I figure I must doing something right.

One thing I do an excellent job of is hiring people who deal with clients or are paid by commission. Since those are the skills I have, I know how to train them.

Anyone who has stayed longer than a year with me has made it the Million Dollar Round Table.

Everyone in my office in the last decade has made the Top of the Million Dollar Round Table, one of the rarest honors in the financial services business.

A good broker needs to be honest, intelligent, highly motivated and willing to work hard. Success is easy to measure. You either make your quota or you don't.

I do a lot of things they tell you not to do at Harvard Business School.

Most of my family is in business with me. When it comes to financial knowledge, l'll match my family against your family any day of the week.

My family understands every item in Mitt Romney's 550-page tax return. There aren't many other clans who can use that to start a Thanksgiving table discussion.

My methods for hiring are unconventional.

One of my best clerical employees came from months of intense advertising, interviewing and testing.

One of the worst came from the exact same method.

I'm always on the lookout for talent. Years ago, I asked the midnight waitress at Denny's to interview with me. She thought it was a pickup line (even though I was sitting with my wife) but I saw her work ethic and personality. (She did interview but decided for family reasons that she needed to stay on the graveyard shift.)

I have never gotten a job by sending out resumes and I don't know many people who have.

I've watched people, young and old, mail out hundreds of resumes and wonder why they aren't getting a job.

I learned my lesson through the school of hard knocks.

I sent out 500 resumes during my last year of graduate school at Vanderbilt. That was pre-personal computer days, so I typed them, one-by-one. And as a result, I never got even a sniff of an interview.

Then I wrote a long letter to a man running for Congress in Kentucky, giving him my critique of how he could win and how I could make that happen.

He immediately hired me, but then lost the election three weeks later. I wound up on the clean-up crew at the Kentucky horse park.

I didn't need a resume to clean up after horses, which really wasn't all that different from low-level politics, anyway. However, I did need a reference and my losing candidate got that done.

I stayed with the horses until Bob Babbage, one of my college instructors, got me a job working with him in the financial services business.

I could have skipped the 500 resumes if I had better understood the importance of networking.

I get frustrated watching some people try to network. They get too aggressive, telling people they need a job rather than letting businesses know why they should be hired.

Corporations exist to make a profit. If you can help them be more productive, they will hire you. Otherwise, they won't.

I've encouraged people out of work to do volunteer work. School, church, non profits and political campaign all appreciate the help. Doing something that makes a difference helps your self esteem.

It's a great way to network. And if you have talents and a good work ethic, someone is going to notice it.

My long letter to the candidate was inspired by Dr. Richard Vance. Vance was the Chair of the Political Science Department at Eastern Kentucky University (and remains a good friend). He told his classes to volunteer at any level, especially as a candidate's driver.

He had a former student go from driver to a Senator's chief of staff.

That angle didn't work so well for me.

I am not a good driver now, and was even worse when I was younger. I once drove Steve Beshear, then successfully running for Kentucky's Lieutenant Governor, on a campaign trip to my home counties in northern Kentucky.

I'm not sure if it was my taste in radio music or when I spun the wheels in gravel, but my driving career with Beshear ended that day.

That was 29 years ago. He has been governor for the last four years and has never invited me to drive him since. In fact, he's never invited me to anything.

Negative impressions die hard. Just like positive impressions do.

The key for a job seeker is to be in a position to make a positive one.

And you might know a person who might know a person who is looking for your skills.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the bestselling author of the book, Wealth Without Wall Street; McNay, who lives in Richmond, Ky., is an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post contributor. You can learn more about him at

He is the Chairman of the Board for the McNay Settlement Group ( which provides structured settlement consulting for injury victims, lottery winners, and the families of special needs children.

McNay founded Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC, which assists attorneys in as conservators and setting up guardianships. It is nationally recognized as an administrator of Qualified Settlement (468b) funds.