Encouraging Health and Happiness

Young man’s job hunt an adventure

Knowing Shelby Burford is a little like knowing Forrest Gump. The stories never stop.

I first met Burford in January, after I learned about how he had printed his abridged résumé on cocktail napkins and passed them out to fellow passengers on his flight to Seattle.

Burford, 22, chose to move to Seattle from his native Kansas City because of its entrepreneurial spirit. I guess Burford, a Baylor University marketing grad, figured he’d get started before he even hit the ground here.

I wrote a column then about Burford and his unique job search six months ago.

The other day, I met with Burford to see if his napkins had allowed him to wipe the floor with all the other folks trying to find work in times like these.

 

They had, he told me. In fact, he starts his “dream job” on Tuesday.

But first, a few stories about where he had been.

The day my first column about Burford hit the paper, he received 75 emails, many of them wishing him good luck or offering him informational interviews — or spots in what looked to be Ponzi schemes.

One email came from 87-year-old Ruth Halverson, who just plain liked Burford’s style. They ended up having lunch.

Another note came from someone named Benjamin Simpkins:

“I wish I could offer you a job,” he wrote, “but I cannot, because I am 12.”

He asked Burford to mentor him as he tried to start his own company.

Five days after the column ran, he got a call from the people at “Wheel of Fortune.” Buford had auditioned for the show in April 2010 and had finally been chosen to appear. Could he fly down the following week?

He did, and it was a bit of a disaster. (The show aired April 22).

“I was a nervous wreck,” he said, but he did win $1,000 (The saying: “Love conquers all.”), and saw letter-turner Vanna White, without makeup, eating a doughnut. For what that’s worth.

By early March, everything was up in the air. He had turned down a couple of sales positions with good companies to hold out for more creative jobs that were still on the table. One corporate-event-planning firm had him in for three interviews but then never returned his calls. (Badly done, people).

Right about that time, Burford got his Starbucks annual report in the mail, and decided to attend the annual shareholders meeting with a few résumés in his hand.

Emboldened by two seatmates (one of them a life coach), Burford walked up to the microphone during a Q&A with CEO Howard Schultz. (Kenny G was standing at the other mike. Really).

Burford started by introducing himself, and telling Schultz how he’d been a shareholder since 2004, how he took the train to Germany from the Netherlands five different times to get a caramel macchiato, and that his 21st birthday was Starbucks-themed. Finally, the inevitable:

“How can I work for you in Starbucks headquarters?”

“You sure you don’t want a T-shirt?” Schultz asked, before Kalen Holmes, executive vice president for partner resources, cut in to tell Burford to find her later.

Within two weeks he had had three interviews, but didn’t get the job: “They told me my eye was on bigger things,” Burford said.

He couldn’t deny it.

So, after all this Gump-ing, where did Burford land?

At “BizKids,” a locally produced television show that teaches kids financial education and entrepreneurship. The show launched in 2008 and airs on public television nationwide. (It airs on KCTS at 10:30 a.m. Sundays, and on KBTC at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.)

Burford will be the show’s marketing coordinator, developing retail kits that will help kids start a business or manage finances. He’ll work on the show’s website, blog and Facebook page, and do research, among other things.

“I am making things for my 10-year-old self,” he said, reminding me that he started his own graphic-design business at 14.

“Shelby was a great fit,” said Jamie Hammond, one of the executive producers. “He is just a really incredible, innovative young person.”

This season, “BizKids” will air an episode focused on how young people can find jobs — summer or otherwise.

“We will certainly take input from Shelby,” Hammond said.

So what can he tell us about finding a job?

“The lesson is persistence, persistence, persistence,” he told me. “I’m glad it’s over. But it was quite the journey. It was a blast.”

Nicole Brodeur

Seattle Times staff columnist

Courtesy of Seattle Times

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