A recent study shows the average job seeker gives up looking for work after five months. Meanwhile, the length of time it takes to find work in the US is currently hovering at more than seven months. If you've been looking for a job for a while, the evidence suggests now is not the time to quit. And yet, nothing feels as depressing as a stalled job search, right? Well, good news, the following technique can help.
It's Time for a Little "Disruptive Innovation" (a.k.a. Stop Looking for a Job!)
The answer to jump-starting a stalled job search is to actually stop looking for a job. That's right. Stop looking for a job – and start looking for a problem to solve. The fancy term for this technique is "disruptive innovation." Wikipedia describes it as "an innovation that helps create a new market and value network." I call it the common sense approach to finding work in an insanely competitive job market.
Here's how it works:
- Identify a problem you are exceptional at solving in the workplace -- something you excel at that in today's market can save and/or make a company enough money to justify your salary.
- Create a list of all the companies in your commutable area that need this type of problem solved.
- Find people who work at each company and contact them to learn more about how the company is currently solving (or, hopefully), not solving the problem.
- Confirm the best way to stay in touch with the company in the event the need to hire someone with your problem-solving ability arises.
Why it Works
Looking for a job feels like begging. Nobody likes to beg. Looking for a problem to solve feels needed. Everyone likes to feel needed. This simple shift in approach takes us from acting desperate to acting responsible. Moreover, it not only makes us feel better, it sends a more effective message too. Here's how:
Meet Ella: Former Stalled Job Seeker...Newly Employed Problem-solver
Ella came to me after being out of work nine months. Her job search had left her confidence shot, and she was seriously questioning her professional self-worth. A quick assessment of her skills and strengths determined her specialty was vendor research. She had a series of professional accomplishments that all involved doing heavy research on potential vendors for her employer and then presenting the findings in a way that helped the management team choose the best option. She could even point to examples where her research helped the employers realize some significant cost savings.
With this information, I challenged Ella to find every company in a 30 mile radius from her home that was large enough to need someone to evaluate vendors as a way to save them money. Ella used LinkedIn and her city's Chamber of Commerce to come up with a list of 43 companies.
I then had her research each one and choose the top 10 she'd want to work for most, citing specifically what was most impressive about the way they conducted business that earned them a spot on her list. She used that targeted list (also known as an Interview Bucket List), to reach out to folks that currently worked there. What was her reason for contacting them? She wanted to know how they were handling vendor evaluation on an on-going basis to ensure the company was maximizing its savings. Ella quickly learned that by connecting with these folks from a problem-solver point-of-view, she was seen as a potential expert resource, not a desperate job seeker.
3 Informational Interviews, 2 Job Offers, 1 Happy Ella
Ella turned her Interview Bucket List outreach into a series of informational interviews with people working at those companies that lead to her being formally interviewed by two companies. Both companies ended up offering her a job. Ella chose the one that had the greatest need for her problem-solving skills. In her own words, "I'll be even more valuable to them and they won't want to lose me. " Spoken like a true expert!
Disruptive innovation in job search boils down to one thing: Changing your approach to the problem. Try the steps above and you could just find some employers in need of your problem-solving abilities.
It's Your Turn to Be Disruptive!
What disruptive innovation have you heard others use to land a new position? Share your stories in the comments section below.
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