Profile of Larry Johnson, Disc Jockey, Human Resources Manager, Author, and More
The Story: I am truly fortunate that I have been able to successfully engage in several careers throughout my lifetime. During a combined work history of 59 active years, and still counting, I was a radio and television announcer/disc jockey, newscaster, and commercial voice-over artist for 22 years in the United States and in Mexico; a human resources manager with a Fortune 500 company for 21 years; the advertising/business manager for a monthly print magazine for 10 years; the public relations director with a psychic research foundation for 3 years; an instructor of English as a second language for 3 years with a commercial academy in Mexico City, and now a freelance workshop trainer, public speaker, and published author.
Each of these jobs had different requirements, responsibilities, and routines. In radio and television broadcasting, for example, the on-air performance is the easy part. But to do a good professional job, many hours must be spent ahead of time, conducting interviews, researching and gathering material, writing and editing it, rehearsing and polishing delivery. Often sponsors must also be secured for the program one does. So, I contacted sponsors, prepared sales contracts, and wrote and recorded commercials. I never worked an 8 to 5 schedule in broadcasting. In fact, for some programs I had to be at the station as early as 5 am, while for others I didn't finish until 1 am. Nor was it uncommon for me to work on my birthday, Christmas, and other holidays.
As a human resources manager my responsibilities were quite different. I reviewed resumes; interviewed applicants; selected and hired new employees; processed job transfers of current employees; scheduled testing, medical appointments, and job visits for "would-be" employees; administered assessments; and dealt with departmental supervisors, union representatives, and recruiting agencies. Seventy five to eighty percent of my time was spent on the telephone gathering and verifying information, interviewing applicants, and handling questions and complaints from employees, while the remainder of my time was devoted to filling out paperwork, inputting data into a computer, and reading a constant flow of memoranda, company directives, and correspondence. This was supposed to be an 8 to 5 job but I usually arrived early, left late, and often took work home.
I've worked for and with a wide variety of sighted people. Some were difficult, demanding, and unappreciative of my efforts and contributions. Others (the majority, I might add) were helpful, supportive, and a joy to be around. My last boss was the very best. Although he was headquartered in another state, he recognized my talents and abilities, assigned me major responsibilities, and then gave me the freedom and trust to carry them out.
With respect to my job as Human Resources Manager with SBC Communications, it took about two years, sending out some 250 resumes and applications and then going on perhaps 65 job interviews before I was hired. Interestingly enough, I received three other job offers the same week.
In broadcasting I worked for two television channels and three radio stations and I was able to talk my way into those jobs a lot more easily than the others. Switching careers from radio and TV broadcasting to human resources was unquestionably pretty dramatic. However, because I became deeply interested and involved in the disability rights movement, I was able to effectively use this knowledge and experience to help sell myself to my new employer. And it worked!
I am now semi-retired and work part-time as a public speaker and workshop presenter, delivering programs on topics such as Disability/Diversity Awareness and Sensitivity; Rumor Control: Causes, Prevention and Benefits; Burn-Out and Stress Overload; Rebounding from Adversity; and Following Your Dreams. Much of the curriculum for these seminars has been personally developed by me as a result of many years of work in the human resources field and are presented to groups at private corporations, community colleges, and municipal and state agencies.
Now I am a first-time book author. Over the years I have written many magazine articles and speeches, and have edited two newsletters. But last year I published my first book, Mexico by Touch: True Life Experiences of a Blind American Deejay. It is a memoir of my 17 years living and working in Mexico. As I say in the book's introduction: Although "my adventures in Mexico did not bring me fame or fortune... they did teach me tolerance of small annoyances and inconveniences like earthquakes... They also taught me about patience, persistence, and appreciation of life's joys and challenges."
I have used braille all of my life, and it has been absolutely indispensable for me to be able to successfully perform all of my jobs. In my early careers, I received little or no accommodation and was pretty much on my own and had to rely on the help of family and friends. Later, I was able to link up with a service of volunteer readers, which helped immensely. During the 1980s I obtained an Optacon, then a talking computer and an OCR scanner. Toward the end of my career with SBC, I was allowed to contract paid reader assistance, and obtain a braille embosser, Alva braille display, and Keynote Companion.
The wide range of new knowledge obtained with each job, the new skills I learned, and the new people I met are what I liked best about having different careers. What I liked least was dealing with paperwork.
All of these jobs that I have held can be rewarding and satisfying careers. Each individual must look within him or her self to discover his/her life path. Visually impaired or not, what I would urge every person to do is believe in yourself, follow your dreams, and face life's adversities and challenges with optimism, patience, and a sense of humor.
The Contact: Larry Johnson
(For information about Mexico by Touch please contact the author directly.)