Five Unconventional Ways to Find a Job

By Kevin M

Even with hints of economic recovery in the air, getting a hired into a new job has never been harder, even for the fully qualified. I know many people who are or have been on extended periods of unemployment in the past year and one common theme is that the usual methods of getting hired aren?t working.

Getting a job is largely about getting noticed, and the best ways to do that are to approach employers in ways most other job seekers aren?t using. Try one or more of these and see if your luck doesn?t improve.

1. Send a letter without a resume

This sounds about as unconventional as it gets, but that?s the point. Try sending a letter without a resume. Think of it a strong cover letter, but it should summarize your abilities to fill the job with an emphasis on further discussions of the job and your qualifications.

Sometimes a resume can be a disqualifier since employers use them to cull the list of prospects. Sometimes it?s best to get them interested before sending a resume. It?s a back door approach in a job market crowded with good looking and often embellished resumes.

The idea is to approach the hiring process as though you?re entering a multi-step business deal. You can write something like ?my resume is quite lengthy, but here?s a summary of my skills, this is what I believe I can do for your company, please call me at your earliest convenience and perhaps we can explore this further.?

A good letter may get the interviewer to pick up the phone and call you, at which point you have three advantages: direct contact, a request for more information and the forcing of all important multiple contacts with a prospective employer. The more contact you have the better your chances of getting an interview and of getting hired.

Everyone sends a resume and cover letter, and at that point the employer has all that they need to begin comparing your resume to dozens or hundreds of others. Using a letter as an ad can invite a phone interview which exponentially speeds up the process. The central idea is to begin a dialogue with someone in a position to hire you and as much as we like to think that resumes do that, they don?t always.

Try it and see what happens.

You wouldn?t do this as a matter of course, but it would be worth the effort if you?re not having luck going the more traditional route.

It works best with small employers or for jobs you?re very well qualified for and can speak the language of the business fluently. A resume won?t necessarily show any of that. You have to come accross as being the solution to a problem?which harder to do with large employers of course.

The letter can be really effective with a reference or two included in the letter. I?ve had a couple of situations where I?d gotten far enough into the hiring process that the resume became an after thought. This isn?t a one-size-fits-all way to reach employers but it?s certainly worth trying.

2. Make contact by snail mail.

As old school as it may seem, your cover letter and/or resume might have a better chance of being read if you send it to prospective employers by traditonal mail rather than by automated means.

In todays employment culture, contacting a prospective employer via email or a job site has become second nature. It?s the first (and often the only) course of action for most people but evidence is piling up that it may also be close to ineffective. The problem is sheer numbers?if everyone is using the same contact method the traffic gets so heavy that you become one of the herd.

While it?s true that many large employers may send you a form letter or email telling you that they require that you apply on line, there will almost certainly be a few who will take the time to read it since it will be so different from what they?re used to.

3. Make contact by phone.

Many years ago, during a similar downturn in the economy, I found myself looking for work in the accounting profession. I did the usual thing of going to employment agencies and distributing my resume, but the competition was intense for the few positions that existed.

In a near act of desperation I decided to try cold calling the yellow pages for work in small accounting firms. After all, if no one would look at my resume and the agencies wrung their hands at the dreadful state of the job market, maybe I could at least get someone to answer the phone.

Bingo! By calling small firms close to home, I actually managed to speak with the hiring partner in most firms I called. Most didn?t have jobs, but one did and that?s all it took.

4. Make an offer to work on a contract basis.

Full time, benefitted jobs are getting harder to find these days but there may be a way to package yourself to get one through the back door. Offer to work as a contract worker and you make yourself hiring-friendly. You?re not asking for guaranteed employment, full time hours or costly benefits and that will remove a bunch of hurdles to a nervous employer.

In this way you?re approaching the job hunt as a vendor looking to provide a service for the employer. This is a less intimate arrangement than an employer-employee relationship and might therefore be more acceptable to the employer.

Not only will you be giving an employer a flexible way of bringing you on board, but you may also be demonstrating a level of flexibility and creativity the employer isn?t seeing in other candidates. And though you may begin working as a contractor, once you?re in the door and demonstrating your value to the business, an offer for a full time, permanent position with benefits may be just a question of time.

5. Offer to work for free on a trial basis.

Last week in What Can Career Coaching Do For You? guest poster and career coach Ed Burns wrote about job shadowing, which he described as working along side a person in an unfamiliar career, usually for free, to learn what ?a day in the life of a dog trainer? is like, as an example. I think the advice is well taken in a more general sense as well.

There are two circumstances under which you might want to try offering to work for free: if you?re desperate to get a job and all other methods have failed, or if you?re trying to change careers and need a foot in the door somewhere. And if either situation is the case it may be well worth the time and effort.

The attraction for a would-be employer is that it?s a virtually risk free hiring situation. It will cost no money and carry no promises. From your standpoint, it?s a chance to demonstrate what you?re capable of in a real life environment. Some employers may have difficulty envisioning you in a certain job based on your resume, but it will become obvious if you can somehow get in and actually do the job.

If you go this route, you?ll want to limit your time of free service to not more than a few weeks, otherwise the employer may be taking advantage of you. You?ll also need to be pretty certain you have the skills and willingness to do the job so that you?ll be able to impress an employer into hiring into a paying situation.

One other element this approach can add to the mix: even if the employer doesn?t hire you into a paid job, he or she may be sufficiently convinced of your abilities that they?ll provide a reference to another employer who does need someone. In this way you?re creating connections where none exist, and that?s a major advantage by itself.

What ever method you use to get a job, once you?re in one be competitive and work to earn your keep every day. Our productivity is the only security we have in todays job market.

What methods have you used to get a job when more conventional ones didn?t work? Have you ever tried any of the above? What happened?

( Photo courtesy of GenBug )

12 Responses to Five Unconventional Ways to Find a Job

  1. I’d include make a contact via LinkedIn these days. It seems like a good networking tool. I’d check there first if I was looking for work to see who I could network with.

  2. Jason – Yes, another outstanding solution. I know a couple of people who landed jobs that way.

  3. I like the snail mail approach. I will ALWAYS answer a snail mail if someone leaves an e-mail. It’s the least i can do, and I’m a hiring manager.

  4. My sister had a friend who sent an old sneaker in the mail to a prospective employer with her resume and a note pinned to it that said something to the effect of “I hope you’ll let me get my foot in the door.”

    She got the job.

    Well, it IS unconventional. 😉


    Len Penzo dot Com

  5. Len – That isn’t crazy–I can see that working. It’s now a matter of getting noticed amid the flood of other applicants, and that was really creative! Thanks for sharing it.

  6. Nice post. I love the letter idea. I forget which management guru said “I have never seen a bad resume.” (It might have been John Y. Brown, the guy who used to own the Boston Celtics.) Anyhow, I think his point was that every resume is so full of initiative-spearheading and ?strong communication*, customer service and organizational skills? that it’s difficult to differentiate them. But a real, coherent letter will convey an applicant’s personality a lot better than a bunch of modular bullet points can.

    I gave a prospective employer a week of free labor once. Fortunately, the guy whose job I wanted was quitting at the end of the week. When Friday came around and I asked the boss if he was still considering me for the job, he shook his head, told me not to be an idiot and said I start Monday (and I’d get paid retroactively.)

    /so grateful I work for myself now

    *The very act of stating that you have “strong communications skills” proves that you’re a lousy communicator.

  7. Greg – Thanks for sharing your experience with working for free, that’s another example proving that thinking out-of-the-box actually works in the real world (as if we didn’t already know that).

    Good comments on the letter/resume issue. The whole point of using a letter rather than a resume is to approach the employer with a business proposition–what I can do for you–rather than a resume–what you can do for me. A business proposition is far more likely to be read and considered than a resume, as long as the letter is set up as a business proposition.

  8. Kevin,

    These are some great ideas.

    I can remember working after the dotcom bust for months, with no luck. I figured my skills and experience would come through, but millions of IT people were on the streets.

    I wish I had of tried something different to switch it up.

  9. Bret – More and Moer I’m reading and hearing that the internet job boards aren’t working. They sure seem convenient enough, but maybe that’s the problem. Everything works until it gets so popular that it needs to be filtered.

  10. Your article was right about offering to work for “free” – that is how I got my present temporary job. At 52, I was desperate 🙂 Read about my story on my site if you get a chance and share with anyone you know – I am hoping my story of being “laid off” for 2 years before finding another job will encourage someone else to not “give up” and to keep looking.

    Be Blessed everyone,

  11. A. Shirley – Glad to read that your story had a happy ending. I think the bottom line is that in a tough job market we have to be prepared to do what ever it takes to get noticed and get a job somewhere. Most of us don’t reach that level of willingness until we’ve been out of work for at least a few months.

  12. What I have learned is directly talking over phone is very effective with candidates and quickly you would judge according to your requirement and from other sides it would be very time saving method.

    For details emails can be used, but if you are using phone then you can test communication skills, style of speaking, mood of the candidate and final answer as well.

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