It was February 9th, 2009. I arrived to work early that Monday morning to plan my week and get a jump on what was already a challenging sales quarter. Then around 8:15am an email came across my inbox from the CEO announcing an 8% layoff. Surely, the folks who were going to be let go were told on Friday or something, or so I thought to myself.

Then my manager walked up to my cube at 8:30. I could tell by the look in his eyes, he wasn’t stopping by to say good morning.  I had just left Dell in August 2008 to join NetApp as a new Account Executive to build out their west Texas commercial business. I was the newest member to the team and reveled at the potential opportunity to make more money than I ever have. This job would have put me in the big leagues in terms of C level sales and income. The product was compelling and I could see how I could differentiate in a competitive data storage market. Especially, once I was able to get in front of a customer, our story and demo was spot on.  So much so that EMC purchased them last year as they continued to take market share and develop their channel.

While I originally was looking for a job with more money (MBA Loans to pay), I was also looking to get off the road. This job also offered an opportunity to further develop my cold-calling and prospecting skills. I had been traveling full-time with Dell for over two years and it was wearing on me and my family. Furthermore, since I had moved to Dallas from Austin to take the job, I hadn’t developed any relationships in my community and really had no network beyond the few SMEI meetings I had attended and my local church. The NetApp Dallas based role offered the chance to eat dinner at home more often, see my kids activities and start to network socially and professionally.

Money Wasn’t The Answer

What I realized right away is that I just wasn’t motivated to sell data storage. Now I’m not saying I was the best sales person on the planet, but the lack of passion about the product affected my commitment to the job. Oddly enough, at new hire orientation, I still drove my team to win the best team presentation on the product. However, I’ve always been extremely ambitious and told myself I would do anything to succeed. But I was lost professionally, spiritually, and physically. I had no connection to the company and while I really enjoyed the team I worked with, we were sales guys and were really focused on our own territories. Sales is the ultimate meritocracy and that’s what I have always loved about it.

Fortunately, I had a decent severance package even for having been there 6 months. I recognized right away that I wanted to return to marketing with a strong customer interaction and business development focus. I had been actively engaged on LinkedIn and connecting to folks, but I realized for what I wanted to do, most of my existing network in Dallas was too far removed. At that point, I didn’t realize how tough the job market actually was. However, I realized how powerful social media was in achieving my goals, but had no idea what an impact it would have on my life.

Social Media Helped Me Find My Passion and Get Me Closer to my Dream

I saw the potential of social media early on and had been a power user of LinkedIn since it first launched. A few days after I was laid off, I posted this to my LinkedIn status update: “I’m a free agent, who wants me”. Honestly, I didn’t anticipate any response. I wanted to test how many folks really monitored these updates and possibly test my social capital as well. At this point I had well over 1,000 connections on Linkedin. Surprisingly, I not only received numerous offers to help me out, but more importantly, an email from a former customer that put my consulting business in action. At this point, I wasn’t even considering consulting. It was a large 4YR university that I had previously sold to who also knew me as a marketer at Dell. It was this first four month consulting engagement that made me realize the potential of social media. This project doubled their web traffic and tripled their revenue.

This last year has provided incredible opportunities and challenges. Obviously, financially it’s been difficult as I started the consulting business and I’ve had to make some very tough choices to do something I’m passionate about. That being said, I’ve had some opportunities to affect change that I never knew possible. I realized it was time to find a career I could really get motivated about. Then, my first opportunity to speak about social media came as I started a career support group at my church. My first presentation was on the power of social media and Linkedin in to develop ones personal brand and to network. It received rave reviews and I coached numerous folks not only on the philosophy but the tools as well. More importantly, I gave access to my network and taught others how to find contacts. As a sales rep, I could find anyone. I then spoke at the DFW Social Media Marketing Meetup in March 2009 to a full room. Little did I know, that topic would become one of my signature speeches.

Ever since I read “The Pursuit of Wow” by Tom Peters, I knew I wanted to be an author and professional speaker. I was too busy doing my current job at Dell to develop speaking opportunities outside my own company and industry. This is the problem with most people, they never take the time to sit down and really think about what they want to do. Furthermore, they don’t take action. They just make incremental job changes. To increase my knowledge of social media, I started reading blogs and books voraciously. I already had a background in direct marketing at Dell and several startups, but if I was going to talk about marketing in the context of social media I also had to practice it. The consulting not only offered that tactical testing ground but also helped me understand other strategies I saw in practice.

Out of passion and necessity come Creative Destruction. This passion and need to succeed and survive are fostering new ideas, new collaboration, and a whole new set of friends and connections that I would have never imagined. I’m having discussions with all sizes of companies and agencies about outstanding opportunities. As I was working on my taxes this past weekend, I was amazed at how much I money I actually earned. Albeit, not what I made before. Means its time to work harder, smarter and to partner more.

One of the big successes of last year was around the social media workshops I executed in New Mexico. I had a network there and a place to stay since my mother and mother-in-law live there. My largest event was in Las Cruces, NM where I filled a room with 50 people, predominantly in real estate,  at $99 a piece for a social media workshop. That turned into several consulting opportunities as well. The fact I spent zero on advertising to generate that kind of return is amazing.

I am seeing more and more opportunities to continue to consult and partner with friends and business associates such as Cameron Gawley, Eddy Badrina and Chris Walters. The idea of a virtual company that comes together for various projects then disbands has been discussed regularly with Chris Walters and I. I’ve always been a firm believer that social media has provided an opportunity for me to network online to eventually meet folks offline. That’s where the real work gets done.

20 Wonderful Ways Social Media has Changed my Life

  1. Executed numerous speaking gigs and jump started my paid speaking career
  2. Empowered me to relaunch the Social Media Club of Dallas and connect me to the team that’s helping lead
  3. Allowed me to increase my network 5-10X
  4. Introduced me to more authors than I ever imagined such as Chris BroganTim Sanders and former client Michelle Prince
  5. Led me to help organize and speak at Ignite Dallas through someone I met on twitter
  6. Featured in the Dallas Morning News Business section January 30, 2010 and  March 2, 2010
  7. Interviewed on CNN Radio about Ignite Dallas
  8. Interviewed on BlogTalk Radio multiple times about social media and personal branding
  9. Completed my first Triathlon and chronicled it on my first blogs – cathartic process. Motivation came from a long lost friend I connected to on Facebook.
  10. Strengthened my religion.
  11. Empowered me to start a career support group at my church and teach personal branding and the modern job search via LinkedIn, etc.
  12. Realized that Bacon is freaking cool, tastes good, and is good for SEO and personal branding
  13. Delivered several paid workshops and marketed solely over social media
  14. Developed some amazing friendships and new business partners
  15. Helped me find my passion for community building
  16. Helped me find my passion for teaching
  17. Allowed me to spend more time and home with my wife and two wonderful daughters
  18. My wife went back to work – Yes it changed my life too, not just financially :). She’s happier
  19. Featured in Wiley book Twitter Marketing an Hour a Day by Hollis Thomases who found me on Twitter
  20. … and many more to come

This post is also the premise behind a book topic that would obviously be an autobiography. If you haven’t seen Lemonade the Movie, this post is also motivated around that theme. “It’s not a Pink Slip, It’s a blank Page”

Let me know your thoughts and comments. I’m obviously opening the kimono a bit here and hope there are others like me who have had similar experiences and wonderful things happen as a result. I know God has a plan for me.

Ok I need to get back to work. Off to meet someone for lunch.

 
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  • http://jeffhurtblog.com JeffHurt

    Mike:

    Wow, I had no idea! You just can't keep a good man down and the creme always rises to the top. Congratulations to you and your family. Here's to much future success!

    I for one am glad you moved to Dallas…even if you do live way north, us downtowners and south of the river Dallasites forgive you. 😉 I can say my life is richer because of you.

  • http://www.cathybible.com/ Cathy BIble

    Thanks for the post, Mike. It really hit home.

    I stayed way too long in a job where my talents were grossly underused, I didn't fit in with my co-workers, and office politics were taken to a ridiculous level. I stayed because the pay was good and the economy was bad. I actually prayed every day that they would do what I didn't have the guts to do for myself, and last September, they finally did. Even thought I'd wished for that day to come, it was still devastating.

    I admit that the financial picture is frightening, but emotionally and spiritually, it has turned out to be the most freeing experience I've ever had. I've reconnected with my passion for writing, and I actually have a couple of works in progress now. I've had the chance and the motivation to update my social media knowledge, and reconnect with some old friends and colleagues. And I know now that it's worth holding out to find a permanent gig that appreciates and uses my talents, not just one that pays well.

    The best lessons in life are often the hardest learned. It's funny how the worst day of your life can also be the best day of your life.

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  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Believe me as much time as I spend south of 635 I would save a ton on fuel. I appreciate the feedback as well. Thanks Jeff. Let's grab lunch sometime.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Cathy, amen to that. It's the struggle that makes us grow. As I was chatting with someone this morning, I've learned a ton about myself this past year that I wish I knew 20 years ago.

  • hkotadia

    Great Post Mike, Inspiring! And yes, I follow your tweets and read your blog, but I had no idea! Thanks for sharing.

    Wish you all the best for the road ahead!

    Harish

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Figure it was time to share a little more. Thx Harish.

  • http://www.gangwayadvertising.com/ GangwayAdvertising

    I loved this post! It's funny how much we try to control our life and yet, we have so little control over the way things actually happen. Once you learn to live in the moment and appreciate the now and go with the flow – it's funny how the Universe just delivers to you what you need. And most of the time, it's situations, people and opportunities you didn't even know you wanted or dreamed of happening! I'm so happy to be connected to you through Wonderful Way #2 and #14. XOXO, Cynthia Smoot

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Absolutely. You are one of the great friends that came all through social media. Thx for comment and for reading.

  • Cothrift

    Great article MIke. I am going through a layoff atm here in Dallas. I am looking at it as a great opportunity to find something new. Not something I should be sad about.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    May you also get your own creative juices going on new opportunities.

  • http://twitter.com/klrichardson Kevin Richardson

    Mike:

    Thank you for sharing. This is the kind of ROI that I both believe in and profess in social circles. Measured, as life is in the people you inspire and those who inspire you. Thank you for sharing of yourself. As you can see from the posts below there are many (I being one of them) who are better because of the commitments you've made. I enjoyed meeting you at OPTSUM and look forward to the next opportunity to hang out soon.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Thx Kevin for the feedback. I need to come down to the lab soon.

  • lolbsolis1

    Mike – thank you for your courage. It was inspiring!

    I am still looking for my next gig, but this time I know it will be one that I am passionate about, and without a doubt, I am addicted to the social web.

    It has given me the opportunity to tinker with a business idea that is rooted in crowdsourcing :) I think it is a brilliant idea! If you like, I can keep you posted :) I am also beginning to think about freelance consulting opportunities.

    Sooner or later, my passion and competence will intersect, thanks to the human network, special folks like you, and your wonderful friends.

    Cheers,
    Prince

  • http://chrisenglund.com/ Chris Englund

    Mike:

    I think this wouldn't make a bad book about going rogue and choosing an alternative career path. I sort of see it as a 21st Century, What Color Is Your Parachute. I'm a recent MBA grad and have found that social media has influenced my job search and career goals in at least twenty ways. I look forward to more thoughts on this subject!

    Chris

  • lissaduty

    Mike, what a great post! I love your success story. I didn't realize you started social media only a few months before me. I am up for a virtual business – we should plan a teaching workshop together! As always, I learned something new about you!

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Thx for commenting. Glad it was inspiring. Definitely drop me a tweet on the new product. I'm a product guy at heart.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Yep I'm a quick study with a keen sense of brand building :). Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    thx Chris. I'm working on a book proposal and hope to have done by end of April. then will be shopping for an agent.. Social media offers so many new ways to communicate and engage.

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  • tonyserino

    I had the same experience twice… and had good outcomes both times… Started a business the first time and ran it for 12 very good years… Started a new business 1 year ago … had a good first year despite the economy … and Year 2, which offically begins today, April 1 will be superb… and next week I launch my first product….
    To those who are out of work or “in between” trying googling the 7 stages if grief… you will probably see yourself in one or more stages… This framework was soothing for me …

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Tony, thanks for your comment. Your story gives hope to many.

  • BryceC

    Mike,

    I kind of stumbled on to this post after seeing your presentation Taking Social Media to the Next Level. I am being considered for a marketing specialist role and wanted to see what wisdom you had, since you have always been a mentor I look up to ever since being a Dell Rep for you at ASU.

    I'm glad I could hear your story since, I can relate to many similar aspects at this point of my life. I am currently in a sales position, but like you, don't really have the passion about the service we offer. I also wanted to be more involved with the marketing side in areas including social media and online marketing. Thankfully, the role I'm under consideration for will give me that opportunity, even though it may pay the same or less.

    I'll have to keep up with your work more often. I'm sure you have plenty of good insight that I may need for my next position.

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  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Good Luck Bryce. Thx for stopping by.

  • jnosal

    Great post Mike! I too have come to the point that getting laid off back in Nov 2008 was the greatest thing that has happened in my professional life. Social Media Rocks! Now to add your RSS feed to my reader…

  • http://www.ayrshireplastering.co.uk ayrshire plastering

    congrats to you and yours inspirational post !!

  • Jasmin

    Great post Mike! Sorry I am just now seeing this one but can TOTALLY relate to this one. Thank you for sharing this, really cool.

  • http://www.marketinginprogress.com Brett Duncan

    Mike –

    “Cathartic” is such a great word to describe all of this. I was almost jobless last August, and I'll admit, part of me kinda wanted to be, for all the reasons you've listed here. I'm sure that's a bit naive, but there's something to being forced into figuring out what you should really be doing in situations like this.

    Plus, I'm one of the lucky ones that got added to your network during this time. Lucky me.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Brett, Thanks for making your way to this post. Yes it's been an adventure. Continuing to pick up new clients and speaking opps. Glad we met as well. Lord knows I would not have met all the folks I have in the last 12 months doing what I was doing before.

    M

  • http://www.marketinginprogress.com Brett Duncan

    Mike –

    “Cathartic” is such a great word to describe all of this. I was almost jobless last August, and I'll admit, part of me kinda wanted to be, for all the reasons you've listed here. I'm sure that's a bit naive, but there's something to being forced into figuring out what you should really be doing in situations like this.

    Plus, I'm one of the lucky ones that got added to your network during this time. Lucky me.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Brett, Thanks for making your way to this post. Yes it's been an adventure. Continuing to pick up new clients and speaking opps. Glad we met as well. Lord knows I would not have met all the folks I have in the last 12 months doing what I was doing before.

    M

  • sprinklesplease

    Mike, I enjoyed reading about your journey. I too was laid off and decided to pursue a MA in Strategic and Organizational Communication. My current digital communications class requires that I post to my blog twice a week and tweet daily. As a digital immigrant the work has been enlightening. I appreciate your story and love the fact you found your voice and added to the conversation. Good luck with your endeavors. Your posts are very informative and helpful as I broaden my social media skills. I’m adding your blog to my blog roll.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Thx for the comment. The consulting and personal branding helped ReachLocal discover me and I’ve been there since July. Good luck with the MA. I enjoyed pursuing my MBA myself.

  • Janell

    Thanks, Mike, for posting this. I had a similar experience; when I was informed my position was eliminated, I took it as my chance to follow my dream of working in marketing. Never crossed my mind that it would be social marketing. It has been a good ride.

    http://mydrivingthoughts.com/wordpress/?p=110

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  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Janell, life always seems to have a funny way of working out. I’m happy where I’m at as well, albeit making less than I used to. I’m still thankful and grateful though.

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  • bel88310

    Mike,
    Great Article!  So happy for you.  Recently obtained a new Marketing position myself and look forward to learning all I can; including the social media networking aspect.
    Sincerely,
    Belinda R. Contreras-Chavez; fellow GHS Alumni 

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Thx Belinda. Best of luck and let me know if you have questions.

  • Johnnyb

    Hi Mike, great aritcle. I have one question for you, where is the best place to start (learning social media for marketing)? I have no idea, there seems like too many places. 

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Johnny, thx for the kind words. well there are numerous blogs I encourage you to read. below are links to four to get started. 

    1) Problogger.com
    2) copyblogger.com
    3) Chrisbrogan.com
    4) mashable.com
    5) http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/marketing
    6) blog.getreachcast.com

    I would read several books:
    Me 2.0
    Crush It
    Content Rules

    then of course attend your closest Social Media Club events.

    Best of luck!

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