Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Find a Job: What Are You Good At?

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

As I talked about in What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up, one of the things I always find is that people generally think about doing more of what they’ve always done.
And that’s fine. If you were once a loan officer, and want to be one again, then you probably have the necessary skills to be one again.
But the problem with the current economy is that if you were let go from your job, there’s a strong chance that what you do isn’t as in demand as you would like it to be.
Take me, for example.
About six weeks into being unemployed, I got a letter to report to my local Department of Workforce Development (DWD) office.
Now, at the time, I was already going to a (very expensive) office that my ex-company had set me up with. There were computers at the expensive place I could use. Fancy paper to print resumes. Highly paid individuals who could help me vet my resume and cover letter. Classes I could take that would tell me what I was good at, and where I should look for work.
They even had a networking meeting every Friday morning, and bonus classes almost every week, covering everything from opening your own business to… other business-related stuff.
You get the picture.
At any rate, I was called to the DWD. If I didn’t report, they would cut off my Unemployment Insurance (UI) and that, as they say, would be that.
So I went to a two-hour meeting, where they told me all the wonderful things that the DWD had made available to me. Which was pretty much all the same stuff that was available to me at the building across town.
When I arrived, the very first thing that happened was that we were told why we had been called into the meeting in the first place.
Answer One: You were frequently out of work. (Obviously, this wasn’t me.)
Answer Two: There were few or no available jobs in your line of business.
How’s that for a cold splash of water in the face? I had been called into the meeting because THERE WERE NO JOBS I COULD DO. (Cue ominous music.)
The thing is, I went into that meeting feeling pretty good about myself. I was getting my resume together. I was meeting people who I thought might have leads for me. And, okay, there weren’t a lot of job leads out there on the Internet for a guy like me, but I was finding some. Surely I would find more, right?
Well, apparently, the government of my state felt differently.
I spent the rest of the meeting feeling vaguely nauseous.
But in a way, it gave me a push that I really needed. Previous to that point, I had set my heels into the ground and said that I was going to get a job doing more-or-less what I had already been doing. That was my skill set, that was what my resume said I could do, and that’s what I was going to do.
I quite literally “forgot” that I had spent seven years doing an entirely different job, which had an entirely different skill set. I also ignored the fact that I had an education degree.
My brain just sat there, saying that I could do one thing, and only one thing.
But that wasn’t true of me, and I’m sure it’s not true of you.
Granted, you may have skills you don’t want to utilize. You might be able to fix cars and build houses, but maybe you hate building houses. Fair enough.
You might be able to do taxes and sell cars, but you hated selling cars.
Fair enough.
But perhaps you can combine those skills and find a whole new way to use them that’s going to bring home a paycheck and make your workday enjoyable as well.
How? Well, that’s up to you.
Over the course of the last three years, I’ve seen a handful of my friends leave the field of journalism.
One of them started teaching writing at a local school.
Another, who did a lot of work in the business field, got into the non-profit world as a liaison to large businesses. It was easy for them, because the person was already on a first-name basis with most of the people they were going to be in contact with.
Another moved into grant writing.
Now, you could argue that two out of these three examples just took another writing job. And that’s true. But what they did NOT do is leave one newspaper and join up with another newspaper, or magazine, or newsletter. They took their skills and applied them in another way.
As for me, I blew the dust off my old education degree and taught a bunch of kids how to make movies, using the skills I developed writing independent films. I had a lot of fun, and I got to help an amazing bunch of kids make a project that is now part of my hometown’s school curriculum.
That’s a lot of storytelling, but I hope it makes my point: You are more than what you were doing just before you lost your job.
And if you want to go back to doing exactly what you were doing, then that’s fine, and the very best of luck to you.
But don’t ever forget that you have other skills you can pull from. Figure out what they are. Write them down. Find places to put them on your resume.
And then compare and contrast them to the list of things you’ve always wanted to be.
There are possibilities there.

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