Act like a guerrilla in your job search
Neal, who lives in Detroit, Mich., where 15.1% unemployment makes it one of the most difficult places in the country to find a job, was working for commission at a cemetery outside Detroit and wasn't selling anything for almost a year before she decided to change her job-searching methods.
"I was doing what everybody else was doing," said Neal, who has a sales background and was sending out resumes online, as millions of other job seekers do.
She took an $800 class from David Perry and Kevin Donlin, co-authors of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." The unconventional tactics she learned worked, getting her a full-time job Dec. 1 selling radio advertising.
The "guerrilla" tactics that Perry and Donlin suggest are lengthy, but focus on being prepared and standing out from the crowd when applying for jobs. They include such wild ideas as dropping off a chair in a box at an employer with a note of "Don't tell me you don't have a seat for me now" to simply sending a cover letter and resume in a square envelope so it looks like a thank-you letter and is more likely to get opened.
That's what Neal did, using a cream-colored envelope that she addressed by hand and put a gold sticker on the back so it looked like a thank-you letter. The radio station general manager who she sent it to called her on a Friday to tell her that the station's sales manager would call her on Monday.
The guerrilla marketing boot camp costs a lot of money, and Mary Berman of Farmington Hills, Mich., put the $800 class on a credit card. She was worried she couldn't afford it, and wants job seekers to know that the tactics can be used without taking the class.
Berman stood out in the job pool by sending a coffee cup to the hiring manager with a note asking if they had time to get a cup of coffee with her and chat. After being out of work for six months and having only one job interview, her cup immediately led to a callback. She also sent a chocolate candy apple after the interview as a thank you, and was soon hired as a marketing executive assistant.
After being laid off after 11 years as an office manager in sales at a magazine publisher, and spending months applying for jobs and going to job fairs and getting nowhere, Berman knew she had to find another way.
"How do you get noticed in this cesspool of inactivity?" she said.
The best way is to zig when others zag, said Perry, who says he can help someone find a job in seven weeks instead of the typical seven months.
"If you're the type of person who can get their attention, in this market, then you can get their customers' attention," he said.
But is being too unconventional too much of a risk to getting hired? Do all jobs require risk takers? Can sending a chair or coffee mug send too strong a message?
Perry and Donlin don't think so. If the goal is to get a job, then the successful job candidate will stand out from the crowd and get his resume noticed before others.
"You have to be willing to take some risks," Donlin said. "Without risks there is no growth."
If you're too conservative or shy to do these stunts, then leave digital breadcrumbs through online profiles and work you do, Perry said.
Another tactic they suggest is starting work before being hired. For a sales job, for example, come in with sales leads, which is what Neal did for her second interview at the radio station. She called some businesses and asked if they wanted to buy radio advertising, and came to the job interview with a list of companies awaiting her callback.
"Coffee cup Mary," as Berman has come to be known at her new job, said she is sold on such "out of the box" ideas and recommends them to her friends who have been out of work for more than a year.
It all comes down to being qualified and showing an employer you're the right person for the job, Perry said. But to get there, some guerrilla methods may help.
"The hardest part of getting a job is starting the conversation," he said.
Delivering a chair in a box is a good conversation starter.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be found at www.AaronCrowe.net