Kevin Grossman

President, Talent Board and the Candidate Experience Awards (#TheCandEs)

Dear 13-Year-Old Kevin,

I’ll bet right now you’re swimming in your pool. It’s probably 110 degrees in the sun — and in the shade — and the only place you can cool off is the pool (besides being inside with the air conditioning on, of course). You and your younger sister are both probably in the pool together, playing Marco Polo or your modified version of it called Shark where no one has to say a word to the person who is it (the shark), the person who’s supposed to have eyes closed. Which never really happens with your sister anyway because her eyes are always open when she’s it. She denies it, but you see them every single time.

You might even have your best friend over hanging out in the pool as well, taking risks like jumping off the roof into the pool (which you know your parents hate!), and talking that junior high boy smack talk you try and try to pull off, but never quite can (and your best friends reminds you of that).

That’s okay. Growing up in the Central Valley of California, in a smallish town called Visalia, may not seem like the greatest place to grow up for you now, but you will look back on those years through eyes of love and empathy, as well as forgiveness. There was a lot of joy and a lot of pain. You’re a shy, fearful, skinny, asthmatic kid with a good heart filled with a world of hope.

A quick caveat — at first I hesitated writing you this letter, wondering if it would cause a rift in the space/time continuum and change your/our future. You know how you love science fiction, fantasy and end-of-world stories, so I thought you’d appreciate that statement.

I know you loved reading Lucifer’s Hammer (your future wife will too!), Lord of the Rings and The Time Machine. You know how to write in Dwarvish runes, too, don’t you. It’s okay. It’s cool. You’re also still buzzing over Star Wars, and will for decades to come (I won’t give all that fun to come away either, so stay tuned). If anything changes in our future because of this letter, I’ll let you know.

Your/Our Summer of Love and Learning

Sigh. Your first true love happens during this long, wonderful summer when you’re 13. She wasn’t your first kiss, but she is your first true love, and you talk on the phone every night. You tell each how much you love each other, and then she reads you excerpts from an adult romance novel that just about does you in for good every time.. Neither of you have any idea what you’re doing, but it’s pretty awesome. Right? Right. You will still be friends with her over 40 years later, believe it or not. And your song at the time — Ambrosia’s Biggest Part of Me — will also be your song with your wife, my wife, today. You typed the lyrics out for your first love then and you’ll still have the original tucked away in a memory book your mom made for you when you turn 21. And you’ll dance at your (second) wedding years later to that very same song. I’ll explain the “second” later.

You’re soon to be step-father is a police detective who covers forgery and fraud. He loves to “chase people across paper” as he likes to say and that I’m sure you’ve heard already many times. Your mom is a police dispatcher. That’s how they met, of course, and not a moment too soon either, which I’ll get to. He’s the father you never had prior to them getting together the year before, and he’ll be the man you’ll call dad the rest of your life. He’ll also adopt you and your sister as the legal father, and you’ll both take his name. A proud moment for your entire family.

Your mom and dad are loving and caring parents who will support you no matter what decisions you will make. And you will make some doozies, that’s for sure. I can’t change that future for you, and the only way for you to know is to do and grow, so go, go, go, young me. Go, go, go.

Back to Your Future

Quick side note — there will be a movie seven years from your now called Back to the Future that I highly recommend.

Now, back to your future. You are happy today. This is important because you will have a very hard time with happy for many, many years. Today, though, you are very happy. You are finally comfortable in your own skin as the saying goes. You are mostly anxiety free, meditate regularly with your wife Amy, and are mindful of every moment of every day. You are grateful for every moment of every day. You’ll meet Amy one day at the beach on October 11, 1997, and it will change your life forever in ways I could never get you to understand at 13, but trust me, it will. She is the sun that rises in your heart every single day.

You know the lyrics:


There’s a new sun arisin’

(in your eyes) I can see a new horizon

(realize) that will keep me realizin’

You’re the biggest part of me…

You and your wife have two amazing daughters, Beatrice and Bryce. Strong, independent, empathic and loving daughters who take after their mom. They’re still young, Bryce is turning 10 and Beatrice 12, but sometimes you think they’re teenagers, or even young women. You and your wife ensure their emotional and physical safety, empowering them with safety skills you never really had when you were their age. You weren’t going to have any children for a long time, and both you and Amy will agree to not have any at all. Until you then both change your mind and you can’t imagine it any other way today.

I know you wanted to be a writer and an architect back then, and the good news is, you are a writer. The architect thing didn’t happen, though, and that’s okay. Don’t give up on it — you’ll love the drafting courses you’ll take in high school.

You’ll do a lot of things you never thought you’d do actually. Today you run a research organization called Talent Board that helps companies understand how to improve their recruiting and hiring process — especially what’s called the candidate experience — what it’s like to be a job seeker. Which you’ll find in your own experiences can and will really suck. I know you’ve only had a paper route to date and you mow the neighbor’s lawn during the summers, so just know that it’s a lot more complex later in life.

We’re also experiencing a horrific pandemic today, a new virus called COVID-19 (coronavirus) that has surged around the globe, infecting millions of people and killing hundreds of thousands. Like the flu, only on steroids. It’s taken lives and livelihoods, destroying economies everywhere because the only way to slow the virus is to stay away from crowds and wear masks. Yes, masks. There is no vaccine and it may be a few years until there is one. Nobody in our lifetimes has experienced anything like this on this scale, not since the Spanish Flu 100 years ago. School is all done online now and your future kids won’t be doing any sports or other group activities for a while.

There are also millions of people out of work today, which reaffirms your mission of helping improve the job seeker journey for so many people who won’t be hired after they apply no matter what the economy looks like. That’s the reality of recruiting and hiring — it’s the business of “no” more than it is of “yes, you’re hired.”

The coronavirus and its impact sucks on so many levels, but you and your family are being safe, and that’s what matters.

And here are a few more important things I want you to understand.

Forgive Them. Forgive You.

You had pretty crappy male role models in fathers until your second step-father.

First, you hated your birth father, Jerry. You were scared of him and you hated him. He womanized and smoked and drank too much and berated and beat your mom. He didn’t think much of you or your sister. It didn’t matter that he didn’t abuse you physically like your mom. It was abuse enough him neglecting you both anyway. This will be the last year you’ll see him ever again, since you and your sister told the judge you didn’t want to see him ever again. Decades later you will learn of his death, dying alone in a hospital from lung cancer. You never really knew why he struggled. You never knew why he didn’t have the capacity to care for himself, or for your family. The only thing you’ll ever really come to know is that you shared blue genes with him, and that you’ll overcome them, and he will not.

It will take decades, but you will forgive him.

Your first step-father was another frightening, abusive man.

Your mom didn’t know that at the time; she was just trying to find you all some stability. Thankfully you were only with him for two and half years, but during that time he emotionally abused you all. Tried to poison your mom. Sexually abused you, something you won’t tell anyone for another eight years. He suffered from bipolar disorder, but was also sociopathic, and refused to take his meds. Again, your mom didn’t know. It wasn’t her fault. He was sick and couldn’t help himself and you all got away to heal and be safe again. You’ll see him again when you’re 21 and you make a run at him because you want to kill him, but your friends and family sweep you away to safety. He’ll die in about 20 years from a heart attack.

It will take time, but forgive him as well.

This was also during the time when the infamous Golden State Killer, known then in your hometown as the Visalia Ransacker, had broken into your house and was 20 feet from you and your sister. We believe he’d been stalking your mom as he did many of his rape victims and had probably already broken into your house and looked through all your family picture albums, as was his pattern then. Mom had found them open and no one in the family had touched them. This was shortly before he broke in. As you know, your crazy first step-father worked the graveyard shift at a tire plant, and your mom worked the swing shift at the police department. But she came home early that night and scared the Ransacker away when she opened up the garage door and her headlights lit him up in his signature ski mask. He bolted into the backyard and vanished. Decades later, he’ll finally be caught and convicted.

There have been so many broken men in your life, even after that, but you are not them. Please know that. Your heart will always be full of love and hope, but you will suffer tremendous anxiety and panic attacks, even depression, later in high school and through much of your 20’s. You will cause others emotional pain because of your own. It will affect your school work, your career, your relationships and aspirations. You will gain weight and smoke cigarettes (I know you think you will never smoke, but you will), and you will drink too much and experiment with drugs. You will think of suicide more than once. You will marry your college sweetheart when you’re 25, and what will start out okay will grind to an unhappy halt eight years later, and you will get a divorce. You will experience excruciating guilt from this and how you treated her, but the unhappiness will outweigh everything else at the time. As I wrote earlier, you will have a very hard time with happy for many, many years.

Please forgive yourself and learn to take care of all of yourself; learn to embrace the happy. And make sure you’re on Its Beach in Santa Cruz, CA, on October 11, 1997.

Our/Your Summer of Love and Learning. Again.

Don’t be afraid to try new things, to stretch yourself, to keep on learning even beyond school. You’ll ace junior high and most of high school, will play sports and even become student body president, but it will become very difficult for you during those depressive, panic attack years to come, and you will miss opportunities to learn and grow because you just couldn’t cope at the time.

Eventually you’ll cope again, you’ll finish college and learn to take risks, fail, and try again — and you’ll continue to do and grow and go, go, go!

You probably never imagined you’d be running a business someday. And you will be.

You also always loved the drums. And now you’re actually playing the drums. It just took 40 years.

You also haven’t been camping since you were nine, and now you own a trailer camper in the middle of a pandemic so you can see the great American outdoors somewhat safely with your family. Because that’s the only travel you’ll be doing for the next few years.

Your family is the most important thing in the world to you. It was then and it is now. Again.

Today, we meet every week as a family, usually Sundays, and share compliments, gratitude, appreciation and “noticing” — something nice we notice about each other or ourselves that we share as a family. We also review managing our emotions, safety plans at home and outside of the home, and

anything else that’s on our minds. We remind each other of what we have in common and revel in our positive differences. We share what we’re grateful for every single day. You will be a good father. You won’t always get it right, but you’ll do good.

Eyes of Love. Always.

One more thing — there’s been more than one deadly virus thriving today that I need you to understand. Something you/we grew up with over the years, but it seems to be much worse today, probably because I’m now the adult with kids, and not the other way around.

Too many people belittle and shame each other today because they feel their way is the only way, and all others are ignorant and wrong. They don’t want to hear each other; they don’t want to truly see each other. Racism and sexism and broken men are doubling down on the world they don’t want to lose either. Men who hate; men you’ve been running from your whole life; the men you’re no longer afraid of.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t those of us who share some of the same concerns, want to change the world for the better, and to ensure a safer world for our families and communities. There are, and for us, that means we just want our girls to be safe and healthy, armed with strong emotional and physical safety skills.

You always try to look at others through eyes of love, Kevin, so please keep doing that. It will serve you well someday when you have your family, and especially under the weight of today where so many people are breaking. Hope keeps you going then, just as it keeps you going now. Learn to effect positive change with others through empathy — and always choose

eyes of love. This is what you and Amy will call #BhivePower, the empowering essence of your family.

I love you,


Thank you Kevin Grossman for writing A Letter To My 13 Year Old Self. Contact Kevin if concern for Candidate Experience is a priority for your organisation

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