The New Year is traditionally one of the best times to seek and gain employment. Given the current state of our economy, however, this year’s job hunters will likely face more competition than ever before as tens of thousands of unemployed and underemployed job candidates vie for what will almost certainly be fewer opportunities than in banner years past.
Want to distinguish yourself from other candidates and land that job? Then, take to heart the unconventional problem-solving approach applied by comedian and entertainer Emo Philips who said, “When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then, I realized God doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and prayed for forgiveness.” Undoubtedly funny, Philips’ comment should provide a revelation to unsuccessful job seekers employing traditional methods in attempting to uncover opportunities.
Consider the case of the fifty-something financial executive who found himself unexpectedly unemployed. Unable to secure employment via the customary channels of responding to employment advertisements/postings, contacting recruiters, and networking, this individual, in desperation, decided to throw caution as well as pride to the wind. He fashioned a wooden sandwich sign announcing his availability and summarizing his qualifications. Then, he proceeded to pound the pavements of lower Manhattan wearing his creation. His inventiveness and audacity caught the attention of a prospective employer, who following the typical interview process retained the services of this job candidate.
Or, ponder the path to employment that proved fruitful for an unemployed advertising sales executive. Eschewing preparation of a typical resume, this job seeker determined to not simply describe but demonstrate his salesmanship through his job seeking materials. Procuring ordinary, unprinted pizza boxes, he displayed his qualifications and accomplishments in a circular pattern surrounding a replica of a baseball in the lower portion of the box. Atop the box, he had printed in large, bold letters the following: “If you are seeking a sales executive who knows how to deliver a pitch, look inside.” The results generated by this most unusual resume format were both immediate and highly effective. He interviewed with virtually every firm or agency to which he had sent this package and received several lucrative job offers.
The lesson to be learned from the stories above is that sometimes unconventionality, far from being a roadblock, opens avenues to employment opportunities. This should not be surprising, for even in more conventional job searches, candidates seek to distinguish themselves from competitors via their resumes and cover letters. The difference in the cases detailed was one of degree. The old adage “desperate times call for desperate measures” motivated the candidates described to take more extreme measures in gaining the attention of prospective employers and both succeeded in doing so.
Whether any particular job seeker needs to take such extreme measures in his employment search depends upon an analysis of each candidate’s peculiar circumstances. All candidates, however, can benefit from presenting themselves in ways that highlight their unique contributions and qualifications and thereby, capture the attention and interest of prospective employers in an increasingly crowded and noisy job market.