No. 1 Way To Jump Start A Stalled Job Search

job search help, stalled job searchA 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:
  1. 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.

  2. Create a list of all the companies in your commutable area that need this type of problem solved.

  3. 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.

  4. 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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Mark R. Gerlach

Also, J.T., I'd be interested in seeing the original study you mentioned regarding giving up in a job search. Can you provide a citation?

July 17 2012 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark R. Gerlach

This is good advice. It won't work for everyone, but anyone relying on one technique is looking for a magic pill that will get them a job. That just doesn't exist. I'd like to respond to a few of the concerns folks posted:

1. Too many people are already doing this:
No, they aren't. I've coached thousands of job seekers in innovative active search techniques, primarily in workshops with 1-on-1 follow-up. One of my most popular workshops was a 2-day, 10 hour course, during which I covered dozens of techniques that require moving outside one's comfort zone, and during which I spent about 45 minutes talking about resumes. I would say about 95% of the folks who attended follow-up sessions had done one thing: fixed their resume. They did nothing else because people only do what is comfortable. A technique like this is uncomfortable. Very few people do it.

2. HR will think I'm crazy or desperate / Companies will resent being told their problems:
If this technique is performed wrong, that might be the result, but this technique can be delivered in a way that makes you look like a professional with strong skills to offer. In my work in sales, we made these calls all morning. It results in a few hang ups, a few useless chats, and a few appointments. It goes like this:

RECEPTIONIST: Acme XYZ company, how may I direct your call?
YOU: Hi. I'm calling for Dave Jones.
RECEPTIONIST: Is he expecting youl?
YOU: He's not. I'm calling to talk with him about vendor evaluation, and I'm hoping we'll have a chance to sit down face to face. You can tell him I'm not selling anything.
RECEPTIONIST: Let me see if he's available.
DAVE: Dave here.
YOU: Hi, Dave. My name's Mark. I called you because I'm a vendor evaluation specialist and I understand vendor relations is your arena at Acme XYZ. Is that right?
DAVE: Yes...
YOU: Good, I'm glad my info was correct. Listen, I'm not selling anything, and even though I am looking for a new position, I'm not calling to ask for a job. I'm calling you because I've been networking with some of the larger companies in the area (name a few), learning how folks are approaching the problem of vendor evaluation. I was hoping to bring you a cup of coffee and sit down with you for about 20 minutes to learn a little about your approach. We might be able to share a few tips with each other, and at the very least you'll get a free cup of coffee. What do you say?

3. How can I get a foot in the door with no experience?
As a recruiter, I did hiring for hundreds of employers, and I can tell you that most of them aren't as sure what they're looking for as they pretend. Many still shoot from the hip when it comes to hiring. I've heard over and over, "I can train the skills, but I can't train the personality." Unusual, yet professional, techniques make you stand out, and some employers will notice you. It will take longer for you than others, but if you meet the minimum qualifications AND get them to like you, you'll find a role that fits you.

July 17 2012 at 12:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This information is BS! And, do you know how many people are already TRYING this method? To me, this "technique" makes those in HR think you are crazy and it DOES make you look "desperate!" C'mon, J.T., it's nice that you have (had?) a successful "career advice" site, but let's get really real!

July 08 2012 at 10:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought this article would be helpful to me but it's not. I've been searching for a job for over 9 months now. I keep being shot down due to lack of office experience (I graduated with a second technology related associates degree in August 2011) yet I normally exceed their education requirements as well as their mandatory wpm and computer skills (I'm looking for a data entry/clerical/administrative assistant position to start with). How am I supposed to even get a foot in the door when no one is willing to give me a chance to prove my worth?

July 07 2012 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Interesting way to turn around the situation.

May 02 2012 at 9:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's more than a bit vague. Most companies would resent being told about their 'problem(s)'.

May 01 2012 at 2:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nice article, but those techniques would not work for everyone.

May 01 2012 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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