Want a New Job? 'Show Your Work!' Says Texas Author
Want a new job? "Show your work!" asserts Austin Kleon, author of a breezy but smart and confident new book with exactly that title, right down to the exclamation point. Technology and the Internet, Kleon says, offer opportunity like never before to network yourself and your talents. And it's not just for "artsy" types.
"People who don't necessarily consider themselves creative now have access to tools that were only available to artists in the past," says Kleon, who will be delivering the opening keynote at the blockbuster South by Southwest Interactive conference Friday in Austin, Texas, which doubles as Kleon's hometown, "Almost everyone has a smartphone, and there are tools available that everybody can afford; two, three bucks for an app."
Kleon's new book is a common-sense sequel to his 2012 best seller, "Steal Like an Artist." If the previous book was about finding your creative spark, his new one wants to help readers market themselves after the creative spark's been ignited -- another example of the D.I.Y. school of job-hunting.
A brisk 215-page read, small and square, full of pictures, drawings, handwritten scrawl and other gimmicky but appealing touches, "Show Your Work!" offers a list of ten familiar but savvy guidelines to success: "Think Process, Not Product"; "Tell Good Stories"; "Teach What You Know"; "Learn to Take a Punch": "Sell Out"; "Stick Around," etc.
The book's primary point is an extended riff on the musician Brian Eno's concept of the "Scenius," as opposed to "genius." Eno's point is that great advancements are far more often made through collaborative effort and groups than the lone genius. Eno made the assertion years ago, but Kleon writes that technology and the Internet has made the opportunity for Scenius a far broader option for workers and thinkers everywhere.
"The key today is for people of all careers and all fields of work to think about how they can share what they do in a way that could be interesting and could connect them with like-minded people or customers," Kleon said in an interview with AOL Jobs. "For example, I wish there was a plumber who had 20 second clips on Instagram. Things I could look to when I had a simple project; then when I had a major job, he'd probably be the guy I call."
Kleon, who is 30, said the idea came to him when he was still a copywriter at a small advertising agency in Austin.
"I had one client, a grocery store where I shopped -- I was actually a customer even before we won the account. I was always trying to get them to let me in there with a flip cam, I wanted to shoot minute-long video where Bob the butcher would explain about how to pick out a ribeye, or Ed the bagger could show how to effectively bag groceries, and we could share it through social media."
The author was frustrated when the grocery store balked at the idea, but "I think that's what people crave," Kleon says. "People are used to talking to each other through these networks, human beings. People like to see a human face."
Kleon says that, like it or not, economic reality is moving towards an age of what the investment advisors and writers James Davidson and William Rees-Mogg have called "The Sovereign Individual": the decentralization of the workplace and democratization of talent. People can either adapt and thrive or ignore at their own expense.
"Everything and everyone is so unsure now - 'Is my job even going to exist in 5-10 years?'" Kleon asks, rhetorically. "So my point is that people should build connections by showing their work. People will say, 'Oh - I follow him. He's got a great blog, or I've seen his work,' You control your own media network."
It also breeds honesty and clarity; anybody can write anything about themselves on LinkedIn, for example. But actually showing a cabinet you've made, a kitchen you've refurbished, or a hairstyling you've created is hard to dispute.
"This is not a method for people who cheat," Kleon jokes, laughing, but simultaneously making his point. "This is for real people doing real work that they can show in an interesting way."
Austin Kleon will deliver the opening keynote for SXSW at 2pm Central time Friday, March 7, at the Austin Convention Center.