Tag : career

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I Can’t Thank the Late Rex Schrader Enough

Rex SchraderRex Schrader’s earthly life came to a close on Friday, and he left a torch for us all to carry. Rex showed me what that flame entailed and how to carry it.

In short, that man changed my life.

I feel indebted to continue what he modeled during the 18 years of our friendship. Rex personified the character traits many have found lacking in me at different points of my life. As I’ve journeyed to follow better the teachings of Jesus, I’ve found I’ve been following Rex’s footsteps as well.

Rex taught me how to be holistically generous.

Rex hired me out of college to manage the advertising for his incredible business, at the time probably the largest land auction company in America. I didn’t own a car or furniture. I had no money for an apartment deposit. Rex let me live in his basement for free; he invited me up to his dinner table. He gave me his personal truck keys and a trailer to retrieve furniture and appliances, when I finally moved out. (I moved into an apartment complex that he had sold to give the proceeds to his church’s building fund.) When I totaled my car a few months later, he gave me his car to drive until we bought a replacement.

But his financial generosity paled in comparison to his relational generosity. I had never done graphic design for anyone other than a professor. I made mistakes that impacted his brand, his income, and his personnel. I was opinionated despite arriving to Columbia City, Indiana, from a myopic worldview. Rex had invented an entire kind of auction before I was born and had changed the auction industry more than I ever will. And yet he forgave me. He coached me. He extended both grace and mercy. He asked questions instead of chiding me. He lobbied others to tolerate me. When I asked to work remotely back home in Maryland, he did one better. He brought on my replacement, let me work while I unsuccessfully submitted 40+ résumés back in Maryland, and then found a Midatlantic auction company that wanted my services. A few months later, that firm became my second client—after Rex gave me one of his joint venture partners to be my first. Rex’s business bought my company’s first computer and software and let me work off the purchase over time. His name as my former boss directly or indirectly brought me all of my clients those first few years. If you had worked for Rex, you were qualified—no portfolio needed.

Rex taught me how to earn accolades with grace.

I came to Schrader Real Estate & Auction with a lot of insecurity and a desire to prove myself worthy of respect. Rex’s company offered a chance to do just that. In the 27 months I worked on Rex’s staff, our design team won more than 50 state and national advertising awards. I remember one state convention, where I was offered—no joke—a dolly to wheel all of our plaques out to Rex’s truck. We practically wallpapered the hallways of our headquarters office in decorations engraved by auctioneer associations. In most cases, Rex sent others up to the podium to collect the prizes. His name was on the award, but he sent me or a coworker to the stage, to the limelight.

Out of my brokenness, I took too much credit for that success. On the few occasions when I noticed that, my attempts at humility were at best awkward and at worst comical. I remember Rex walking into my office on a quiet afternoon—I think after everyone else had clocked out—and told me the best way to receive a compliment was to thank the giver for their kindness and encouragement. He added something along the lines of “Redirect the conversation to their generosity.” I have recalled that advice hundreds of times over the past two decades in both personal and professional settings.

Rex taught me the power of public praise.

Fast forward several years, and I was giving a seminar at a national convention. To this day, I think it was the largest crowd I’ve ever addressed in a professional setting. Rex slipped into the ballroom to observe, standing against the back wall. (I now cringe at the content of that talk and its Powerpoint, which included how to use the then-new technology of QR codes.) Afterwards, several folks made their way to the podium to ask questions or thank me for volunteering. Rex waited for that line to die down instead of slipping out to another seminar. Instead of coming up to the podium or waiting to grab me in the hallway afterward, he walked out into the middle of this big room, waited to catch my eye, pointed at me, and loudly declared, “Ryan, I am proud of you!”

I’m crying as I type. I well up every time I tell that story, and I tell it often. He knew what he was doing. He knew my past, my struggles, my brokenness. He forsook the dignity of a hall of famer, the composure of a nationally-respected entrepreneur. He was E.F. Hutton. He knew that whole room would absorb that praise and that I would drown in it. He knew he was also teaching me how to do it for others.

Nine days before he died, I mailed Rex a card to thank him for changing the trajectory and quality of my life.  Because of the holidays and his hospitalization, I doubt he got to read or hear those words. (I had no idea he had been in the hospital or that hospice was around the corner.) I wanted him to know I wasn’t wasting his investment. So, I rattled off a few recent accomplishments he made possible. It was an incomplete list, because almost everything my business now provides was possible only because of his training, his influence, and his direct generosity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve marveled at how crazy my life story is and thought, “If it weren’t for Rex and Gene [his business partner] . . .“

I can’t wait for the next time I see Rex, when we will both know fully what his influence accomplished. I look forward to reflecting on the Sovereignty that poured our lives into the same pitcher. In the meantime, I’m going to keep pouring into others as a conduit of both God’s love and Rex’s legacy. And from my office now, I lift my finger to the sky to declare to everyone, “Rex, I’m proud to have worked for you!”

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150: Why Entrepreneurs Should Think About Their Résumés

 

Almost every semester, I volunteer as a portfolio reviewer for graduating artists at one of the local universities. Just as in the marketplace, the talent ranges from “Would you consider a career as a ‘sandwich artist’?” to “I’m glad I’m not up against you for a job!”

Two days prior to this portfolio review, hundreds of college students at other universities boycotted classes as part of the Million Student March. They demanded tuition-free public college and cancellation of all student debt, calling college education a basic human right. One of the sentences I heard was, “A college degree doesn’t guarantee a job anymore.”

As a gen xer, I don’t recall a time when a college degree did guarantee a middle class job. I didn’t even know that was the assumption. I went to college to learn a specific trade (in a place where I could make new friends and have more dating options). I hoped to be good enough with that trade at the end of four years to get a company to take a chance on me. Thankfully, one company did.

When I tried to move back to the East Coast from my first career stop out of college, my bachelor’s degree didn’t help, as forty-two straight résumé submissions proved fruitless. The thirty-some auction-industry awards my graphic design had won already didn’t matter, either. I eventually found an employer only when I applied to another auction company.

Within a year, I learned that my value wasn’t in my page layout skills but in my conceptual approach and understanding of the auction process. Early into my freelancing, I started volunteering to teach seminars and then supplemented those by writing blog posts to demonstrate those qualifications. Fast forward a decade, and those two factors are still the majority reasons why I’m employed.

I reflected on that journey after this semester’s portfolio review.

One of the students had created a product not currently on the market, developed the branding, designed the packaging, and even built the point of sale displays for it. Among other praise, I told him that he had proven commercial value because he had surpassed curriculum requirements. He had learned how to harness his (niche) passions into superior effort, which resulted in more hirable talent.

He didn’t feel entitled to a job out of college. He didn’t assume people or companies would line up to hire him.

Neither should we—no matter where we are in our career.

That week of contrast for me was a wakeup call, a reminder to keep working on my game while playing the game. It was healthy for me to realize talent is chasing me, that the playing field might be more level than ever, that I can’t assume auction companies will continue to send me work.

I can’t feel entitled to my job. I have to keep finding ways to add value to my work, more tools for my skill set.

You do, too.

It might require us to take online courses or college classes. We might need to dive into nonfiction books, marketing experiments, focus group sessions, or a plethora of Google and YouTube searches. We might need to join forces with someone else or create a new entity with a different focus. Maybe this growth will come by joining a networking group or trade association. It might even require physically moving to a different geographic area or spending some time traveling to learn from other cultures. Or it might be just making space for more intentional thought and meditation.

Any and all of that comes with a price tag. These pursuits might cost us some of our favorite entertainment and recreation pastimes, maybe even some relationships. Probably some sleep and dollars, too.

Adding value to our professional appeal can also add value to our invoices or closing statements, though. Getting more proficient and more efficient can lead to more job security or market share, more disposable income or working capital, and more vacation time or more days working remotely. The more we add to our functioning résumé, the more distance we create between us and the entitled.

Take it from someone who got hired out of college because of the “extracurricular” section of my first résumé.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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