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Hamptons Life

Jul 28, 2009 12:01 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Career advice for challenging times in a new book

Jul 28, 2009 12:01 PM

The stats on unemployment and new jobs created are uninspiring thanks to the current recession. But, in spite of the challenges that have emerged from the economic downturn, a Westhampton resident with more than 50 years of experience in the fast-moving world of Manhattan media and sales has plenty of advice on how to keep a career afloat, advice that he shares in his self-published book, “You Can’t Fall Off the Floor! The Insiders’ Guide to Re-Inventing Yourself and Your Career.”

In the book, Steve Blacker of Westhampton chronicles his experience working for well-known media companies such as Conde Nast and The New York Post and also offers advice on “re-invention” (the hyphen is his), which he says is essential to staying employed in the current economy.

“Re-invention is critical for survival,” the 72-year-old Mr. Blacker said. “It’s being able to solve new challenges with new approaches, not old solutions.”

In an interview, Mr. Blacker shared some statistics to support his notion that re-invention, as he defines it, is so important: Recent college graduates will have a total of 14 jobs by the time they’re 38; of the 150 million people employed in the country, 52 percent say they are unhappy with their jobs; 400,000 
people are let go every week; another 600,000 leave where they work each week.

These statistics make re-invention a necessity, Mr. Blacker writes in his book, which he wrote with the help of ghost writer Charles Salzberg, who also helped author Lauren Weisberger write “The Devil Wears Prada.” The book is self-published through Lightning Source.

Mr. Blacker explained that one option for successful re-invention is taking one set of skills and applying it elsewhere.

“If you’ve been in sales, think about why you’re good at sales,” Mr. Blacker said. “If you can sell toothpaste, you can sell diamonds.”

Mr. Blacker used the fallout from the collapse of the U.S. automotive industry as another example of how his re-invention concept can be applied anywhere. Automotive factory workers have to work under pressure on an assembly line, are good at quality control, and can work on a team. Instead of looking for another job in the failing automotive industry, the workers should take their skill set to a more lucrative, prospering industry.

“People get locked into one particular industry or category,” Mr. Blacker said. “But re-invention, rather than looking at job titles, is looking at skill sets.”

Mr. Blacker will be sharing some of the stories in “You Can’t Fall Off the Floor!” at the Open Book at 135 Main Street in Westhampton Beach from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, August 1. He will also be signing copies of the book.

“I have known Mr. Blacker and his wife for many years and have known him to be a fascinating man,” said Terry Lucas, the owner of The Open Book. “He said he would write a book and I said we would do something when it comes out.”

The Open Book has hosted two other book readings and signings this summer. Dr. Alexander Covey read and signed copies of his book “Ageless Beauty: An Insider’s Guide to Alternatives to Plastic Surgery,” and Bob Morris discussed and signed copies of his book “Assisted Loving.”

“People in his world know who is he,” Ms. Lucas said about Mr. Blacker. “He’s charming, interesting and has done a lot.”

In “You Can’t Fall Off the Floor,” Mr. Blacker includes interviews with other media bigwigs, such as Cathie Black, the president of Hearst Magazines, David Granger, editor-in-chief at Esquire, Gayle King, executive editor of O: The Oprah Magazine, and Charles Townsend, president of Conde Nast publications.

Mr. Blacker added that he has already sold 1,700 copies of his book in the past six weeks, mainly through networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

“I send the book to one person who has a lot of friends,” Mr. Blacker said. “And if they like it, they recommend it on Facebook or Twitter.”

In addition to offering advice on how to keep a career afloat in challenging times. Mr. Blacker takes a few moments over the course of the book’s 205 pages to reflect on his myriad jobs.

He recalled a time when he was 24 years old and working at a large chain store where all decisions on merchandise presentation and quantity were made by the corporate hierarchy. Shirts had not been selling well, Mr. Blacker said, so he ordered five times the prescribed amount and arranged them in a different display.

“I tried something different,” Mr. Blacker said.

When management reps visited his store and saw his display, he said, they fired him on the spot for breaking the rules.

Mr. Blacker had better results with this approach while working as a toy buyer at Macy’s at Herald Square in Manhattan. The store had received a shipment of battery operated smoking tugboats from Japan—but the packaging was horrible, he said. As soon as someone picked up the toy in its packaging, the tugboat fell out.

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