How Unemployment Changed One Man's Life

A few years ago I met Carlos Gil online when I was looking for a job during my junior year in college. I found out that he had launched a site that helped people find jobs. We had a brief conversation and he gave me some  suggestions that helped me land an internship. That was back in 2010. Since then we have kept in touch and become friends. I have watched his remarkable career grow since then and as he gets ready to launch his new book, I want to introduce you to him. I hope you all enjoy the interview.

Tayo Rockson: To those that don’t know you, can you tell us about yourself? Also talk about your journey so far in life? So both your personal and business paths and discuss some of the obstacles you have had to overcome to get to where you are today.

Carlos Gil: As I reflect, the journey is more like a wild roller coaster ride of “Highs and Lows”. I began my career in the financial services industry in 2002, working for Citigroup in my hometown of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Despite being a high school drop out, and having no formal college education at the time, I hustled my way through the corporate ranks and graduated from Citi’s “Fast Track” management program in 2005. 2007 was an interesting year both professionally and personally. First, I went through a divorce, then re-married, moved to Jacksonville, and was recruited by a subsidiary of American International Group (AIG) which at the time was a great career opportunity. Then, the bubble burst and the recession happened. On November 5th, 2008 I was a part of a massive corporate layoff due to the downturn in the economy. With little options, I turned to LinkedIn almost immediately after being laid-off. It was through LinkedIn that I discovered I was not alone and there were hundreds of thousands of other professionals looking for work too. As a result of my job loss, I became inspired to help others find employment so I founded JobsDirectUSA.com which initially started as a LinkedIn group before rolling out a website and in-person job fairs. Again, as a high school dropout, I had no clue about how-to start up or actually run a business. I had never written a business plan. However, my passion for helping others and determination to keep looking ahead fueled my entrepreneurial spirit. Throughout 2009, I made no money and spent every penny to my name. As I intimately share in my upcoming book, “My Unemployed Life: Finding a Job in a Social Economy”, the little savings that I did have at the time I invested into my business and grassroots community events called “Pink Slip Parties”. It was through hosting free, networking events amongst recruiters and job seekers that I learned about social media, event marketing, community outreach, and public relations. During this time, I was featured by CNNMoney.com and other news media outlets. Although my business wasn’t earning a profit, and I was broke, it felt incredible to make a difference in the lives of others. In the meantime, I was also re-branding myself and gaining new experiences that I would have never experienced while working in the banking industry. Fast forward to 2012, I was hired by Winn-Dixie supermarkets to start-up social media for their organization. Today, I’m at a place in my career that I would have never thought was possible 6 years ago. I’ve moved on from Winn-Dixie and am now working at Save-A-Lot where I lead digital and social marketing. In addition to my day job, I’m a public speaker and thought leader within the digital marketing community. I’m also pursuing my MBA from Jacksonville University. Lastly, I’m writing a book to motivate and teach today’s generation of job seekers on how jobs are found through social media, networking, personal branding, etc. You can learn more about it at: MyUnemployedLife.com.   

TR: So you went from being unemployed to owning your own company to basically creating your own niche job at Winn-Dixie and now you are head of Digital and Social Media at Save-A-Lot. That’s quite an impressive series of progressive steps. Can you describe what constantly drives you to strive for the best.

CG: Role models. My parents never let me settle for anything but being the best so I strive for greatness in just about everything I do. I know it sounds cliché but it’s a fact. I’m passionate about success but driven by opportunity. Money does not motivate me, it comes and goes. LeBron James is someone that I admire greatly and not only because I’m a diehard Miami Heat fan but because no matter how many MVP awards LeBron wins, he continues to improve his game and constantly strives to get better. Corporate America needs talented young professionals to rise up and shine like LeBron James. Otherwise, nobody is going to make it happen for you.

TR: Talk about this book and what drove you write it. How is it different from similar books?

CG: The book is part-memoir that I wrote while I was living “My Unemployed Life” and also part job search guide. Most job search books focus on traditional tactics when looking for work: resume writing, interviewing skills, salary negotiation, etc. “My Unemployed Life: Finding a Job in a Social Economy” touches on every tactic today’s job seekers need to be employing (no pun intended) such as: how-to build a list of hiring employers pertaining to your specific skill set and industry, tips for personal branding via social media, identifying and connecting with recruiters at hiring companies through LinkedIn, scripts on what to say, and even tips coming directly from recruiters and hiring professionals. After surviving the “Great Recession” and coming out of it stronger than before, I felt that it was essential to share my story as a way to inspire others yet provide step-by-step tools on how to find employment. Whether you’re a recent college grad or a Baby Boomer who’s intimidated by social media, the book appeals to a wide audience.

TR: What do you think is the main reason a lot young people today are unhappy with their jobs?

CG: A lot of young professionals that I’ve met throughout the years struggle in landing a job out of college because of a false sense of entitlement. The job market is competitive. Companies are looking to hire talented and experienced candidates. The challenge for a young professional is being able to be content with an entry-level job for the first couple of years while they gain experience. The other reason is often young professionals are not taken as serious as their older counterparts which leads to resentment and unhappiness. My solution is to learn from the industry veterans. Soak up as much knowledge as you can like a sponge, your time is coming.

TR: Can you discuss the importance of "people building" skills especially in today’s world?

CG: Relationships are critical. You will not be successful as an entrepreneur or in any corporation without the support of others. I guarantee that. Treat each colleague, peer, or business contact as a valuable relationship. In my world, if it wasn’t for the network that I’ve built over the years I would not be where I am today. Social media helped facilitate many of the connections that have evolved to become legitimate friendships and business relationships today.

TR: What is one piece of advice you can give to young entrepreneurs and job seekers today?

CG: Stay humble and keep hustling. As a young entrepreneur I didn’t create a million dollar business but I was highly successful in building brand equity, not only for my company but myself too. In life, and career, you will knock on many doors and get turned down many times but don’t ever give up on your mission. In 2008 – 2011, I networked day and night in order to provide for my family. Despite hitting rock bottom financially, and being turned down hundreds of times, I never quit on myself. The harder you work, the harder it is to give up. My point? I would not be where I’m at today if it weren’t for those days where I’d work through the night in hopes of getting my life and career back on track. Whether you’re looking for a job, or looking to grow your business, stay true to who you are and what you can bring to a relationship. Always seek to offer value.

TR: One more thing... Before you go, where can people find you to get in touch with you?

CG: Absolutely! For starters, you can follow me on Twitter @CarlosGil83. I’m also on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/CarlosGilOnline or you can look up “Carlos Gil”. I’m also on Facebook at facebook.com/CarlosGilOnline. I look forward to connecting with your readers, Tayo.


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