The premise of a new book by Chicago career coach and management training consultant Roger Wright: there is plenty of work out there, but not necessarily a lot of jobs with benefits and a steady paycheck. The book, released in Feb., is called Finding Work When There are No Jobs. Wright, 58, believes that job seekers should try to match their personal story with the needs of communities and employers. Do that and you stand the best chance of finding work, and possibly a permanent job.
Wrightâ€™s own struggles motivated him to lay out what he claims is a new way to look for work. His career, in brief: teaching special ed in Chicago high schools, then doing in-house corporate management training at companies like Walgreenâ€™s, MCI and Gallup. After losing his job in 2008, he started a search using the standard techniques, including polishing his rÃ©sumÃ©, networking and doing interviews on the phone and in person.
But after going through the grueling application process for some 25 positions, including one that put him through 12 interviews, he still hadnâ€™t landed a full-time job. Thatâ€™s when it struck him that the usual advice didnâ€™t apply in the recession-era job landscape. â€œI had the wrong goal,â€ he says. â€œI had always worked in one place and had one job. What I really needed to look for was work. If I can fill a need, I can find work.â€ After changing his strategy, he wound up cobbling together work for seven different clients and starting a career coaching practice that together now net him what he was making when he had a single-paycheck job.
Along the way he developed five principles he says job seekers should use when they approach their search. His strategy isnâ€™t revolutionary but rather a new way to look at the techniques other career coaches suggest. Here is Wrightâ€™s five-point plan:
1. Tell your story, communicating what matters. Most coaches advise that a good rÃ©sumÃ© should tell a story about who you are. But Wright says that rÃ©sumÃ©s, especially corporate CVs designed to be read by automated programs that search for keywords, are inevitably going to be a collection of facts, rather than a narrative about your life. â€œA rÃ©sumÃ© can never communicate the depth, breadth and sensory information of my experiences,â€ he says.
Example: One of Wrightâ€™s clients is Forward Chicago, a website that links job seekers who are 55 and over with senior-friendly businesses. Wright had been doing some consulting for Northshore Village, a residence for seniors, teaching people how to use the Internet and email. He had told his story to a contact who relayed it to another contact who then shared Wrightâ€™s story with someone at Forward Chicago, who brought Wright on to do a consulting job. He didnâ€™t get the job by sending in his rÃ©sumÃ© or going on an interview, but rather by telling his story in a compelling way to someone who referred him to an organization that needed similar work done. â€œIâ€™m not saying get rid of rÃ©sumÃ©s and cover letters,â€ he says. â€œIâ€™m saying theyâ€™re not enough.â€
2. Add music. This is Wrightâ€™s most amorphous piece of advice, but potentially one of the most valuable. When you tell your story, he advises, try to find both rhythm and harmony. If you can sing the same song as the person who is interviewing you, all the better.
One of his coaching clients was looking for a job in sales but when Wright talked to her about her search, she spoke in a monotone, signaling boredom and lack of ambition. Wright suggested that she imagine she was singing a song when she answered questions in interviews. She wound up modulating her delivery as though she were accompanying a piece of music. Her next meeting was with a hiring manager at a medical sales company. This time she came across as animated and enthusiastic and she landed the job.
3. Communitize, finding needs inside a community. Iâ€™m not a fan of made-up words, but in this case, I like the idea that job seekers, especially those in small towns, try to figure out a way to fill unmet needs in their own communities. In contrast to networking, which, says Wright, now means â€œsending an email on LinkedIn or going to a networking event and standing in the corner with a bad drink,â€ communitizing is meaningful networking, where you volunteer for a civic group or go to an event with a community focus and talk to people with a shared interest.
Example: One of Wrightâ€™s clients went to a party in her small Illinois town where she saw the local sheriff. She knew the sheriffâ€™s assistant was leaving her job, so she mustered her courage, approached the sheriff and offered her services. She got the position. As other career coaches have said many times, most people find jobs through people they know. Wright underlines this and emphasizes that community events can put you next to the people you know and need to know, and make it easy to get an introduction. There are lots of different communities, including shared former workplaces and schools you may have attended with others. Use them all, says Wright.
4. Solve a mystery. In other words, find a need and demonstrate that you can meet it. Wright says it helps to think of this step as coming up with a solution to an intractable or sudden problem. He has done this a lot since going out on his own as a consultant. At one point he was working with a utility, helping to put in a new enterprise research computer program. Wright went to on-site locations and discovered that the workers who drove the trucks and did the gas repairs hated the new program. Once he relayed this information to headquarters, the company extended Wrightâ€™s contract for six months so he could train everyone properly.
5. Practice stewardship, taking care of something bigger than yourself. This means taking several steps back and figuring out how to articulate the larger purpose of the organization where youâ€™re looking for work. For instance, someone applying for a web producer job at Forbes should know what that particular job demands and be able to talk convincingly about how she can do whatâ€™s needed, but she should also express excitement about Forbesâ€™ broader purpose, which is to tell compelling stories about free enterprise, entrepreneurial capitalism and smart investing, and to value the worldâ€™s wealthiest people and vividly describe their lives. Or if she were applying for a job at an investment bank, she should be able to talk about how the firm creates financial stability and prosperity for its clients.
Wright likes to tell the story of Margie Powell, 52, who had moved to tiny Anderson, Texas with no job prospects following a divorce. She soon learned that the town had no rural garbage collection system. To solve the â€œmysteryâ€ of picking up garbage over an 800 square mile rural stretch of land, she drummed up 12 customers and hauled garbage to a land fill in an old horse trailer. Her business grew, she bought a garbage truck and now sheâ€™s set to buy a bigger one. Powell told her story to her clients, she solved a local problem and she served as a steward for her communityâ€™s problems.
One last detail about Wright: Instead of working through a conventional publisher, he set himself up as a publisher, borrowing Appleâ€™s slogan and calling it Think Different Press. He thinks heâ€™s found another need in his community and is telling a story to try to meet a higher purpose. You may not need to read the whole book but Wrightâ€™s ideas can help in your search for work.Â (Source: Forbes Staff: Susan Adams)