Douette “Doc” Cunningham sat in the club, sipped his drink, and smiled amusedly at the “Kings of Comedy Tour 2000.” Then the idea hit him. This stuff was fairly funny, it kept the attention — but how about adding some real content to the fluff? After a lot of creative brainstorming, Cunningham, head of DOC Communications Companies in Somerset, has powered up his “Hometown E.X.P.R.E.S.S. Tour,” which he terms “A success entertainment seminar.”
Rolling in for a first stop on Wednesday, May 28, at 6 p.m. at the Frank V. Pepe Auditorium in Somerset, The EXPRESS comes in bearing the theme banner, “Success 1-2-3: Working in Your Niche, Leading with Your Brand.” Cost: $29. Visit www.empower-one.com.
Attendees will be greeted by music, awards, and entertainment, but this tour is very definitely content driven. Speakers include East Windsor native Randal Pinkett, who founded BCT Partners and also appeared on NBC’s “The Apprentice” — setting him to oversee a $110 million casino refurbishment for Donald Trump. Workshops will include “Job Fair Resources,” “Resume Writing,” and “Career Makeovers.”
Cunningham, himself one of the speakers, bears impressive witness to the bootstrapping possibilities of the American dream. “By our home in Jamaica, I remember my cousin climbing into a car, filled with all his belongings and going off to college,” says Cunningham. “This seemed to me like a pretty cool move in his life and I asked my parents If I could complete my education abroad.” Cunningham’s parents saved all their money, sent him to SUNY in New York and were not disappointed. Their son graduated from SUNY in Manhattan with a bachelor’s in computer science and landed a plum job with Bellacor Inc. doing research and development for the “Baby Bells” telephone companies.
Cunningham spent seven years with Bellacor designing, among other things, a system for 800-number calling. Then he was smitten by a personal craving for redirection. He began preparing himself to abandon a six-figure income and step out on his own as a motivational speaker. He would also have to break this news to his wife, and the parents who had spent all their savings on his education.
Three years later, after much speaking, training, and market testing, Cunningham walked into his boss’s office and presented his plans for leaving Bellacor to go into a new field. After hearing his presentation, the boss replied, “This is the most comprehensive career planning package I’ve ever seen. How can we help?” Thus with a little aid from Cunningham’s past employer, Empower-one was launched. Cunningham’s career and life coaching business has flourished. He is a frequent speaker on radio and television and has authored “Becoming Layoff Proof: What it means to be the CEO of Me.”
The Hometown E.X.P.R.E.S.S. — an acronym for Entrepreneurs, Networking X-change, Purpose, Respect, Empowerment, Sisterhood, and Success 1-2-3 — seems a bit slogan laden, but Cunningham insists that the tour, like his coaching business, are designed to provide step-by-step formulae.
That dream job. “We have the choices available in this society for so many people to achieve their dream job,” says Cunningham. “It mostly involves getting one’s eyes opened to the possibilities.” He explains that the process of where we work is typically based on what we want from our business contribution. Initially, seeking merely the cash to live and play on, we take a job. We trade hours for money. Later, with time, wanting more esteem and acclaim, we move into a career.
Unfortunately for the majority of working men and women it ends there. After a time in the career stage, Cunningham says, most of us become restless. Prestige has been obtained, yet we want more. We seek a line of work driven by meaning. This meaningful work is the ultimate dream job and Cunningham claims it is more obtainable than we might think.
This ultimate vocation involves two aspects. The individual should believe thoroughly in the product or results of his labor and should truly enjoy most of the day-to-day regimen. He should look forward to this work. This two-step litmus test provides a little honesty check.
Time frames. Traditionally each of these shifts, from job to career to vocation, has come to individuals over the years, each involving a startling moment of realization. But increasingly the younger working generation has begun to coalesce the steps and shoot for their vocation much sooner, Cunningham points out. They are bypassing the drives for money and status and going right to a meaningful line of work. If the company for which they want to work doesn’t have a climate change policy, if their product has no redeeming value, if they personally do not see fulfillment, the younger worker turns the offer down.
“There is some reality within all this vocation seeking,” says Cunningham. “Not everyone’s meaningful vocation will also provide him with all other needs.” Translation: that truly idealistic non-profit may fill your soul, but it may take a second job to fill those six hungry mouths at the supper table.
Vocations may also be found in volunteer jobs. “We are moving into a world in which multiple income streams and multiple projects are becoming the norm,” says Cunningham. “The good news is that with technology this career flexibility is more easily achieved now than ever before.”
The Hometown E.X.P.R.E.S.S. tour may seem to many human resource professionals as containing nothing startlingly new. The talks about finding one’s niche, and branding oneself by self marketing are phrases that have been used a lot of late. Yet despite the commonality of these phrases, there remains a nation of individuals who seek a better job fit. The Hometown E.X.P.R.E.S.S. gathers up the message, delivers it right to the seeker’s door, and may just inspire him to make the necessary change for happier more productive careers — and vocations