Making sense out of the tragedy at Sandy Hook

It started as just another school day for the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Children at the bus stop, children on the playground, and children in the classroom. However, it was not just another day for at about 9:30 a.m. as announcements were read over the loudspeaker shots rang outAnd when the shooting was over 20 children first graders between the ages of 6 and 7 were dead.


The tragedy at Sandy Hook has shaken all of us.  Speaking for the nation a weeping President Obama simply said…”Our hearts are broken.”

This tragedy again beckons the question why?

—Why would someone shoot innocent children?

—Why do bad things happen to Good People?

—Why do these senseless rampages continue to happen?

I have no answers to these questions; the time for answers will come later.  For now all I can ponder is

– The unwrapped presents that won’t be opened this year.
– The birthdays that won’t be celebrated.
– The high school graduations that won’t be attended.
– The weddings that won’t be held.

Making sense out of the tragedy

What makes sense to me now is love. The outpouring of love within the Newtown community, the torrent of love from the nation, and the surge of love from the world tells me; while we are still filled with faults ….people are still good.

At times like these I am driven to my knees in prayer for solace and to my bible for comfort.  For as Abraham Lincoln said “I have no place else to go”.  Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”   Matthew 19:14

The safe harbor of Jesus’s love is now the home of 20 children from Sandy Hook, 12 girls and 6 boys. Their death reminds us how precious and fleeing life can be.   And for now that is all the sense I can make out of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

How Strong Are Your LinkedIn Contacts?

5 Shades of Thankfulness

This week, we celebrate my favorite holiday…Thanksgiving.  Yes, I favor it for the food, the football and the family.  But more than that, I favor it for the reflection…the reflection on the shades, if you will, of thankfulness that wave over my life.   For this year these are five of my many shades of Thanksgiving thankfulness.

❶I am thankful for my Faith.

God is my anchor.  His teachings are the guidepost of my life.  His love has given me peace; His grace has given me perspective.  And, His mercies has given me my life, my joy, and my stability.

❷I am thankful for my Family.

My family is a constant source of joy, wonderment and pride.  Joy, that comes with the privilege of every moment I get to spend with my magnificent 86-year old mother.  Wonderment, when I look into the sparkling eyes of my granddaughters while seeing my son growing into becoming an excellent father. And, pride in being the third child born into a remarkable family parented by Benjamin and Mary Lois Bland.

❸I am thankful for my Friends.

My friends–new, old, and more numerous to name, have been an endless source of intelligence, advice, and unconditional love.  But what my friends really are a source of a great deal of silliness and fun!!!  And for that, I am truly thankful.

❹I am thankful for my Country:  The United States of America.

Yes, I know we have just experienced a bitterly contested election where money, lies, and voter suppression substituted for ideas, honesty, and leadership. However, despite of and because of its faults, I am so thankful to live in this country–a country that is the beacon of liberty for the world; a country of innovation and hard work.  A country where despite our tinged racial history a child, born in Hawaii to a white mother and black father, can grow up to become the President of the United States.

❺I am thankful for my Work

During a time when millions of my fellow citizens are out of work, I am thankful to have work.  I am extremely thankful that part of my work has been to assist those looking for work.  I am thankful to never forget that work is more than just a paycheck; work represents the dignity that comes from using your talents and skills to support yourself and your family.

The bottom line

These are only five of the many shades of thankfulness that I am grateful for.   I hope, amidst the food, football and family, that you will spend a moment reflecting on your shades of thankfulness.

A final word of thanks

Finally, thank you for reading my weekly blog post.  Your comments week after week are a heartwarming affirmation that the words written and the stories told… matter.  I am forever amazed and grateful for your readership.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. 

A Soldier’s Last Letter Home

On this Veteran’s Day as we wind down the longest war in American history the war in Afghanistan.  I would like to share with you the true cost for those who served in uniform and their families in a soldier’s last letter home from the war that just ended the war in Iraq.

Private First Class Jesse Givens had been in Iraq for a less than a month.  The 34 year old married with a stepson and a new son on the way was unable to shake a sense of dread – and a need to say goodbye to his family.

On May 1, as he helped to snuff fires set by insurgents, his tank crashed through a berm and fell into a canal off the Euphrates River. The rest of the crew escaped through a hatch, but Givens was trapped inside. Of all the dangers they were warned about, of all the terrible scenarios that went through the minds of his family, it was a scene nobody imagined:

Jesse Givens husband, father and father to be drowned in the desert.

A month later Melissa Givens, Jesse’s 27-year-old widow while going through her husband’s personal effects fond a letter that simply said “Open after my death”.   This is Jesse’s goodbye to his wife, Melissa, his stepson Dakota and his unborn son Bean.

My family:

I never thought I would be writing a letter like this, I really don’t know where to start. I’ve been getting bad feelings though and well if you are reading this . . .

I searched all my life for a dream and I found it in you. . . . The happiest moments in my life all deal with my little family. You will never know how complete you have made me. Each and every one of you. You saved me from loneliness and taught me how to think beyond myself. You taught me how to live and to love. You opened my eyes to a world I never even dreamed existed . . .

Dakota, you are more son than I could ever ask for. I can only hope I was half the dad. You taught me how to care until it hurts, you taught me how to smile again. You taught me that life isn’t so serious and sometimes you have to play. You have a big beautiful heart. Through life you need to keep it open and follow it. Never be afraid to be yourself. I will always be there in our park when you dream so we can still play together. I hope someday you will have a son like mine. Make them smile and shine just like you. I hope someday you will understand why I didn’t come home. Please be proud of me. Please don’t stop loving life. Take in every breath like it’s your first. I will always be there with you. I’ll be in the sun, shadows, dreams, and joys of your life.

Bean, I never got to see you but I know in my heart you are beautiful. I will always have with me the feel of the soft nudges on your mom’s belly, and the joy I felt when we found out you were on the way. I dream of you every night, and I always will. Don’t ever think that since I wasn’t around that I didn’t love you. You were conceived of love and I came to this terrible place for love. Please understand that I had to be gone so that I could take care of my family. I love you Bean.

I have never been so blessed as the day I met you Melissa. You are my angel, soulmate, wife, lover, and my best friend. I am sorry. I did not want to have to write this letter. There is so much more I need to say, so much more I need to share. A million lifetimes’ worth. I married you for a million lifetimes. That’s how long I will be with you. Please keep our babies safe. Please find it in your heart to forgive me for leaving you alone. . . . Do me a favor, after you tuck Toad and Bean in, give them hugs and kisses from me. Go outside look at the stars and count them. Don’t forget to smile.

Love Always

Your husband


Private First Class Jesse Givens – Thank you for your service.

5 Tips for landing a job this holiday season

In less than a month we will be knee deep into the holiday season packed with lots of heartwarming holiday get-togethers, wonderful food, and great family fun.

Most job seekers see the holidays as lousy months to look for work, and at first glance that is probably true.  Potential hiring managers are distracted by festivities, travel and family obligations.  Plus they are often overwhelmed by year-end deadline pressure, and reduced budgets.  Finally companies are often in “slowdown mode” with employees taking time off and decisions being delayed until the start of the new year.

Add all of that to the feeling of many who have been job hunting for a long time that the holidays present the perfect opportunity to take a break from the discouraging task of looking for work and it is clear why the holidays can be lousy months to look for work.

However, it does not have to be that way.  An analysis of the last 4 holiday seasons revel that  90% of job-hunters assisted by my company, The Marben Bland Group who keep at it during the holidays actually found work as a result of those actives as quickly as 3 months after the start of the new year.

Those successful job seekers and their job search coaches have compiled a list of the best practices they have found most helpful in mounting a holiday search.  These 5 tips are presented to you now as our per-holiday gift.

There’s less competition.

Lots of people give up looking over the holidays, and that means you’ll have a better chance.

The holidays put people in a receptive mood.

The focus on family and fun makes people more open to conversation, even with job-seekers.

Holiday parties are great for networking.

In addition to parties thrown by family and friends, professional associations and offices host their own fêtes.

Respond to holiday leads quickly.

If you get a job or networking lead at a holiday party, act on it right away. Momentum is always important in a job search, so don’t wait until the new year to send that e-mail.

Hiring Managers have more time to take your call.

Workloads often lighten up during the holidays. If a hiring manager isn’t out of town, he’s more likely to chat with you than he would be at another time of year.

Bonus Tips

Everyone likes a bonus and because it is the holidays these 3 tips are our bonus to you!!!

Hiring managers must meet end-of-year deadlines.

Some managers have quotas to fill, like hiring 15 marketing staffers by Dec. 31. If they’re behind on hiring when you present yourself, you could get lucky.

Holiday cards offer a great way to stay in touch.

The hiring process often takes weeks, if not months. If you’re in protracted talks with a potential employer, a holiday card can be a great way to remind him or her that you’re available and eager.

Holidays offer time to polish your résumé.

Employed job-seekers looking to make a switch are often too crazed at work to spend time on their résumés. The holiday lull can offer precious time to fix up one’s C.V.

The Bottom Line

The holidays is a time to count  our blessings, yes you may be unemployed or underemployed  however, all is not lost you have a family that loves you and a cadre of people who are rooting for you and willing to help you find that next job.   Our work with thousands of job seekers clearly shows that those who express confidence and are resolute that they will find a job despite the difficulties, setbacks and the time it takes are untimely successful.   So use the holidays to renew your appreciation of all that is good in your life that can help you pursue your search with an attitude that’s most likely to get results that you so richly deserve.   — Happy Holidays!!!!

3 Costly LinkedIn Profile Mistakes

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with 175 million members and growing.  LinkedIn’s ascendancy makes having a profile on the social media site a must for any job searcher, small business owner, or corporate professional.  Why?  Because LinkedIn gives you the keys to controlling your online identity in Google and other searches LinkedIn profiles typically rises to the top of search results.  Your LinkedIn profile allows you to directly control the first impression recruiters, customers and fellow professionals get when seeing you online.

Despite the growing importance of the impression gained by an effective LinkedIn profile a number of professionals are making profile mistakes which are costing them potential jobs, customers and professional opportunities.

What effect does your LinkedIn profile have…?

  • On your job search?
  • On how your customers find you?
  • On your online image?

This quick quiz will provide a measurement to gage if you a making any of the 3 costly LinkedIn profile mistakes.

  1. Is Your Profile100% Complete?  – A LinkedIn profile basically acts as an online resume giving recruiters, customers and professional contacts access to your experience, thoughts and interests.  LinkedIn estimates that you are 40 times more likely to get found in a LinkedIn search if your profile is complete.  Click on this link to find how to get your profile to 100% complete    Give yourself 10 points if your profile is 100% complete.
  2. Are you a member of at least one group?– LinkedIn groups provides an opportunity to join other industry professionals adding value to your own profile and helping you to get found by other industry contacts.  Click on this link to find out more about groups   Give yourself 10 points for each group you are a member of.
  3. Request recommendations – Obviously don’t ask everyone, especially if you don’t know them that well. But having recommendations will help your profile to stand out and will help to build trust in your reputation to visiting users. This will help improve the visibility of your own profile within internal LinkedIn searches as well.   Find out more about LinkedIn Recommendations by clicking on this link


0-10:  You are in need of a LinkedIn profile makeover

10-50: Your profile is good but could use some work

50 & Above: Wonderful you have an effective profile


The Bottom Line  

LinkedIn makes much of its money by charging an elite group of corporate recruiters’ big money for the right to sift through member profiles, hunting for great candidates to hire. Old or threadbare profiles aren’t much use to recruiters. In contrast, profiles that sparkle with members’ latest awards, new job responsibilities and fresh professional qualifications are regarded as treasure.   I hope you will make your profile a treasure.

3 Cool Career Tips

I am an entrepreneur.  I am a thought leader on social media marketing and job search tactics.  I make keynote speeches, conduct seminars, and write blogs, articles and books. I coach corporate leaders, produce content, market and sell my services for a living.  I travel a lot, meet a lot great people and at this stage of the game make a fraction of my corporate salary. However, I have never been challenged as much, I have never used my brain more and I have never been happier.

While I will never say that I won’t go back to the corporate life.  I do know that I have learned at least 3 cool things that will hold me in great stead in whatever I do.  I present them to you with the hope they will enhance your career.

 1. Never Stop Learning

In order to be (and stay) competitive in your industry, you need to develop expertise. You need to enhance and expand your knowledge base, and you need to update it regularly. Armed with that knowledge, you can show your stakeholders—your investors, your board, or your clients—that they’re getting the best.

So, on an ongoing basis, take an honest look at your skill set and ensure that it reflects the latest trends and developments in your field. Read a lot. Make a regular effort to scan blogs and news articles, attend lectures and seminars, enroll in online or local classes, and find training opportunities in your market.  Yes, this demands an investment of time and resources, but the payoff will come in the form of your new, competitive skills.

2. Nurture Your Relationships

Anyone who runs his or her own business knows that good relationships can mean the difference between success and failure. Surrounding yourself with people who are smart, capable, connected, and interested in helping others gives you access to a wide range of resources—plus, the opportunity to learn from those who’ve “been there.”

Joining professional groups and being active on social media platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn, are easy ways to start. Comment on the blogs of people you respect—they will notice. (Your comments to this blog are welcomed!!!) You can also create a “Mastermind Group,” a small group of like-minded professionals that meets regularly to share expertise, discuss challenges, and hold each other accountable to goals.

3. Take Risks

Very few successful people got to where they are by playing it safe. So, whether you plan to start your own business or not, consider developing the frame of mind of a risk-taker.

The greatest opportunities involve some measure of risk. And yes, you need to prepare yourself for that course. But, you also need to believe in yourself. You need to know that you have the strength to weather potential failures. And then, ultimately, you just need to go for it.

The Bottom Line

Over the years, I’ve met many successful business owners, corporate chieftains, and faith leaders. In working with these people, I’ve found that the most prolific of them all embrace the same foundational strategies for success: they rely on others, but they know that their very best resources lie within themselves.

So the real cool career tip is this:Each one of us is our own best investment. Devoting time, energy, and resources to bettering ourselves is the most effective way to reach our full potential and ensure success for the future.  ….. Live long and prosper!!!