In Part I of this series, we looked at the reasons why you need to forget about looking for job in order to find one – or more specifically that you need to be searching for work rather than a job. Here in Part II we’ll concentrate on workable strategies to help you transition into what is turning out to be a very different and difficult job environment. No matter what’s happening in the job market, you still need to earn an income, and that’s where your emphasis needs to be.
Why looking for a job is often a wasted effort
What does this mean for you if you’re facing the prospect of losing your job, or if you’re out of work and already looking for one? You could be wasting your time looking for a “job“! And as we noted in Part I, the longer you’re out of work, the lower your chances are of finding a job at all.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t career fields and industries where hiring is brisk, there certainly are. If you’re in one of those fields, than go the traditional job search route by all means. But the number of fields where that is the case is shrinking steadily. If you’re in the majority of the population, who do not fall into those narrow in-demand categories, you may have to shift from looking for a job, to looking for work.
Since the possibility of being out of work for longer than six months – or even longer than a year – is no longer uncommon, that is an outcome that you need to prepare for. And the time to do it is early in your period of unemployment, not months later when reality begins to sink in.
This is how looking for a full-time job can turn into a wasted effort. The time you spend looking for a full-time job will take time away from other efforts that are likely to be more productive in the current economy – where employers are increasingly looking for people who want work to do, as opposed to getting a job.
Understand the subtle difference here that employers perceive:
- When you’re looking for a job, you’re saying: this is what you can do for me.
- When you’re looking for work, you’re saying: this is what I can do for you.
Do you see the difference? Which do you think a business owner or manager is more likely to respond to?
Identify your niche and hone your skills to find work
In attempting to position yourself to find a full-time job, you have to work on presenting an image of being the total package – the guy or girl who is the perfect fit for the job opening. Rarely will this work, because everyone else who’s looking for a job is doing the very same thing.
Finding informal work arrangements on the other hand, requires a different approach entirely. You have to be skills-centered, not credentials based. A potential employer/client will be less interested in your credentials and where you’ve worked in the past than they are in what it is you can do for them.
In informal work situations you are typically brought in to fill a specific niche or to solve a definite problem. You’ll need the skills to do exactly that, as well as the ability to convince an employer that you can.
In order to do this, you need to emphasize and refine your most important skills. Look at your current resume and all the skills you have listed, including those that you performed at previous employers. Specifically, look at the ones where you’re strongest, and where you have the greatest personal preference.
Narrow that list down to the three, four, or five skills that will become the nucleus of the “skills package” that you will offer to the business world – or even direct to the public.
In many cases, you don’t need to be an expert, but rather a competent practitioner. When a business is looking to fill a need, they’re not looking for the prettiest resume (they often can’t afford to pay that person anyway). What they’re looking for is a person who is willing to get their hands dirty, and get the job done.
How to look for work, rather than a job
It may be better to plan for a difficult job search from the very start. Many people think that’s the wrong approach, that you should be “optimistic” and assume a favorable outcome (i.e, you’ll find a new full-time job quickly). But being optimistic has nothing to do with wearing rose-colored glasses. It’s about perceiving reality for what it truly is, and adjusting your strategy accordingly.
Here are some tactics that you can adopt early on following a job loss:
- Assume the job loss will be long-term – months, not weeks – and that you may never find another full-time, living wage job again.
- Your general strategy should be to look for work, which is far broader than a job and will offer more numerous possibilities.
- Allocate some of your time to looking for a full-time job to replace the one you lost, but diversification is the key; that means you should also be looking for situations beyond a full-time job.
- Actively seek part-time, contract and seasonal work. Look for jobs you can perform as an independent contractor.
- As a rule, small businesses are more likely to have informal work arrangements than larger ones.
- Contact any potential employer in your field, and even those loosely related, and offer your services in an informal capacity. Avoid asking for a full-time job. The same employer who ignores your requests for full-time employment may greet your offer to do specific work assignments with open arms.
- Build contacts on these assignments that will lead to more assignments. Eventually you may be able to create a steady income from working informally.
- Start building a business as soon as you become unemployed – it may end up being the ultimate solution to your long-term income dilemma. You can blend a business with informal work assignments, providing you with multiple income sources.
Charles Hugh Smith termed this kind of worker as mobile creatives, and as a person who’s living that life-/work-style, I’ve written extensively on this topic myself.
You have to actively work to get yourself out among the types of businesses that might be in need of your skills. You can do this through networking, direct contact, word of mouth, referrals, or less formal methods, like civic groups, churches and other affiliations.
You might even avoid providing a resume at the first point of contact – nothing screams I need a job louder than a resume. You can use a less formal method of initial approach, such as a letter, a phone call, or a meeting at a coffee shop. A business owner or manager may take the presentation of a resume as a request for full-time job, which they are not in a position to provide – which is why most resumes and job applications never even get read. But if you lead with direct presentations of specific skills, the kind that can fill their need, you might be a candidate for an informal work arrangement.
Once you land one such assignment, the ones that follow are never as hard to get. Just make sure that at any informal work arrangement you land you work at it as if it’s your own business! That’s basically what you’re building anyway – you’re own business.
No, this isn’t as pretty as the good old days of being able to blast resumes around to land a full-time job with a living wage and benefits. But it’s the world that we’re living in now, and the one that you need to adjust to. The sooner that you do, the sooner you’ll figure out how you can provide the income you need – with or without a traditional job.
Have you tried this approach of emphasizing finding work/income over a job/salary?