A childhood memory of a Nicodemus book
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    Auction Finds

    A Little Blue Book on how to get a job

    The book  in the glass case at the auction house was a littler smaller than my open hand, but the title gave it some heft – Little Blue Book No. 1340. How to Get a Job by Heinz Norden.

    It seemed very timely right now, since the economy has tanked and millions of people are searching for jobs. So, I cracked opened the little paperback to see when it was published and what little priceless nuggets it had to offer. There was no copyright date on the inside pages, but I found that the publisher was a company called Haldeman-Julius. I checked out the contents and then flipped through the book.

    “You need by no means be out of work to look for a job,” the first chapter began. “It is a far better principle to do so before necessity compels you. … there is hardly any excuse for settling back and letting seniority take its course. Loyalty is a splendid virtue, but it must be reciprocal. Large corporations, particularly, frequently dismiss even old employes on short notice and without apparent reason, ‘to protect their interests.’ In other words, it’s a hit-and-run game and may the best man win.”

    Wow, that advice seemed so now, although I knew the book was not contemporary. It offered somewhat dated advice on filing applications, checking newspaper want-ads and using an employment agency, among other things. Looking for a job has changed greatly from 1929 – I later found out the publication date of the book – until now when the internet has made the process more efficient.

    Emanuel and Marcet Haldeman-Julius.

    The 32-page, 3 ½” x 5″ jobs book by Norden was among a series of books first published in 1919 by the husband-wife team of Emanuel and Marcet Haldeman-Julius in Girard, KS. All were low-priced books that could fit in your pocket, covering subjects from candy-making to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” to homosexuality to philosophy for both blue-collar and educated people. They were made of cheap pulp paper to make them more affordable to the masses.

    More than 300 million copies of the stapled paperbacks (the original covers were not all blue) were sold, according to Wikipedia. Another site put the number at half a million copies of 6,000 titles.

    The couple were social reformers and the subjects of some of their books and writings were indicative of their politics. They combined their last names at a time when that was rarely done. In the 1920s, Marcet began a campaign against institutional racism at Kansas University, among other things writing an essay in the Haldeman-Julius Monthly titled “What the Negro Students Endure in Kansas.”

    In 1927, the NAACP’s Walter White wrote two little books: “The American Negro and His Problems” and “The Negro’s Contribution to American Culture: The Sudden Flowering of a Genius-Laden Artistic Movement.”

    Interest in the little books declined after World War II. In 1948, J. Edgar Hoover investigated Emanuel after the publication of the book “The FBI—The Basis of an American Police State: The Alarming Methods of J. Edgar Hoover.” Haldeman-Julius also faced tax-evasion charges.

    He died in 1951 and his son took over the company, which folded after a fire at the plant in 1978. The books are apparently collectible, and as usual, there’s a collectors’ website with a history of the company along with photos of the couple and their family.

    Today, the internet has made job-hunting easier and has given job-seekers more power, according to panelists at a Social Media Summit I attended this week. The session, called Social Networking and the Job Search, offered tips on how to use Twitter, Facebook, Google, Linked-In and other internet resources to help find a job.

    Depending on your field, it’s not just about sending out resumes blindly anymore. Job-hunters must have an online presence that brands them, use keywords and tags in their resume that corresponds to the type of job they are seeking and make sure they present themselves the same across different platforms, be it Facebook, Linked-In or some other.

    It seemed like a lot of work to find a job, but as one colleague noted, finding a job is work these days. It was simpler in the little jobs book at auction. Here are some of its tidbits:

    Application letter: “To be successful, your letter must contain certain information. The more important points to cover are these: Why you are applying; your name, address, telephone number, when you may be reached; short physical description, age, height, weight, health, etc. (may be supplemented by a photograph); education, experience, other qualifications, salary, references; why you are leaving present position.”

    Waiting for the interview: “While you are waiting we may take up the matter of your personal appearance. … You must be clean, preferably freshly bathed. Your finger nails must be pared and clean, your shoes shined, your suit and hat pressed, your face shaved, your breath pure. Do not wear loud clothing, ‘traveling salesman’ style, or hyper-collegiate. … Exaggerated colors in shoes and hose are not to be recommended. These rules are still more important for girls. It may be unfair, but it is a fact that awkward girls have far less of a chance than those who know how to arrange the ‘scenery.'”

    Lack of experience: “What is the beginner who hasn’t had any experience to do? It’s quite a problem. Well, remember that all these ‘experienced men’ at one time had no more experience than you. We all have to start some time. That is a good argument to use on an employer who says: ‘You seem all right, but you haven’t had any experience.’ If you have enough confidence in your own ability, you should have no difficulty in convincing someone else of it.”

    The interview: “Meet him man to man, your equal. Feel neither inferior or superior to him. Pronounce your name and do not shake his hand unless he offers to do so. If he doesn’t offer you a seat, ask for one. … Let him ask the questions. Don’t slump in your chair as if you had a wet string for a backbone. Don’t smoke unless you are asked to. Even then it’s a good policy to refuse. Edge in a few remarks about the games, current events, etc., but avoid ‘weather reports,’ tedious stories that interest no one.”


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