There are a lot of us who have interesting skills, but just can't seem to find the right place to put them to work. It's easy to blame age or lack of expertise. But, it's often the case that we are square pegs in the land of round holes. For the most part, no amount of reshaping will actually turn a square peg into a right sized round one.
A resume is just one way to present yourself in the search for work and meaning. It works for lots of people. It doesn't work for everyone. Maybe you are one of the chosen few.
A smart alternative is called the one page business proposal. It takes a combination of hard work and the willingness to fail. If your job hunt is working for you, this is a good place to stop. If you want to try something different, read on.
The basic idea is that you get to know a business well enough to make a clear proposal to them about adding value to their work. For a restaurant, it might be to open a catering business. For a gift store, it might be to run pop-up stores around town for a percentage. For a law firm, it could be underbidding the existing runners and copiers or indexing old files.
5 Jobs That Let You Escape The Cubicle Farm
Land A Job With A One-Page Proposal That Says...
You know those apps that help you find parking in San Francisco? Or the ones that tell you which bus to catch in New York City to get you where you're going? Those are often developed by civic hackers.
Cities don't necessarily want to hire these app developers or share resources, but they do want city hall connected with this generation of hackers, according to an article in The Atlantic.
The chief innovation officer gets to manage this little army of developers, encouraging citizen engagement and attacking problems that are actually kind of fun to solve. Adel Ebeid, Philadelphia's Chief Innovation Officer, one of two in the country, told The Atlantic he's part of a new wave of guinea pigs – one that's expected to become mainstream by 2015.
Government jobs offer lots of perks. You can usually bet on a superb health insurance and retirement package, and for highly skilled professions, great pay.
And pretty much every federal program needs information technology, from Homeland Security to Medicare. By this fall, the largest federal agencies project they'll hire about 273,000 new workers for "mission-critical jobs," makingthedifference.org reports. We're talking about jobs like biological technicians at the Department of Agriculture and positions at the Department of Defense.
Wondering whether The Department of Defense actually has any openings? Sure does: more than 74,400 of them. It's highly likely they'll station you in the middle Atlantic region, as almost half of these positions are based there. The rest are scattered around the country.
Don't have the right skills yet to qualify? Scholarship for Service, funded through the National Science Foundation, will pay for your books, tuition, room and board at an institution where you can prepare for a federal tech career.
You know how you hear all the time that journalism is dead? Yeah... It's not. It's just changing – both the way it's produced and how it's delivered. And nowhere is that more apparent than on the digital front.
Media companies from small-town weekly newspapers to national outlets like CNN are hiring digital content producers. Depending on the outlet, this can mean editing video, writing, editing photos, creating audio slideshows, or in a lot of cases, all of the above.
Digital producers can be webmasters, graphic designers or multimedia gurus all rolled into one. It's a spectacular combination of both creative and technical work. Here's a nice summary of what digital producers do.
Where you'd work really runs the gamut here; your choices aren't limited to media companies. A recent search on Monster.com showed, for example, openings at Sony and World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
The housing market crash drove thousands of realtors out of the industry. Only the hardiest (or maybe the ones with the biggest trust funds) stuck with it. But as the market recovers, there's room for more folks to move what's known in the real estate world as "inventory" – new houses, foreclosures and rentals.
But selling houses isn't what it used to be. The ones who do best in this new digital world can incorporate great photos and videos into their online listings, make the most of SEO so folks can find their properties faster and network online to find clients.
Companies like Real Geeks are helping agents do just that. And sites like Tech for Agents tell real estate pros how to use technology for everything from listing properties to prospecting big potential clients through social media and mobile apps. That site also contains a primer for real estate social networking.
And if you like being your own boss, more than half of real estate brokers and sales agents in 2010 were self-employed, so you're winning there, too.
UX stands for "user experience," and it's something companies are focusing on more and more. How a person reacts to a website, how the content flows, how easy it is to browse and buy stuff online, how often a mobile app crashes – these are all examples of where user experience comes in. Case in point: The Washington Post this month moved researcher Laura Evans to a brand new position, Chief Experience Officer, where she'll focus on how customers interact with and use the Post.
User experience consultants work everywhere from schools to startups. Here's how Whitney Hess, an independent consultant specializing in user experience, sums it up: "Remember that website where you got totally lost and frustrated and gave up before you got anything done? That was a bad user experience that was poorly considered by the company who made it, and it's my mission in life to erase those from the planet." If you're still unsure what they do, Mashable lays out 10 common misconceptions about user experience design.
Instead of applying for a job, this approach makes you consider what the company really needs. You'll have to be diligent enough to get to know their business and make a really relevant suggestion. Like all business proposals, your chance of closing the first one is low. Your odds increase as you get better at the process.
Here's how to do it in five steps.
Get to know the business. (It doesn't matter which one, but do pick an operation that seems busy). Research their reputation online. Identify the local competitors. Figure out what makes a company like this succeed. In this phase, Google and Glassdoor are your best friends. Search and research the heck out of the company.
2. Visit the Company
This step requires that you make a call and get yourself a tour of the company. It's easy with small retail stores and a bit more complex for organizations with 100 or more employees. Get a good feel for what they do. Ask about their problems and successes. Be curious about them and do not ask for a job. If they ask why you are doing this, tell them you are doing a research survey of businesses in the area. (You are.)
This is the really hard part. Take time to think about what you could offer the company. What is it that you know how to do that will make a difference. Try to think of something that will bring money in the door for the company.
4. Write a One Page Proposal
The key to the exercise is that your proposal be simple, clear and easy to make a decision on. The one page limit will force you to be very clear. Define the problem/opportunity. Describe the solution. Identify the completion date. Talk about the risks the company will take. Name your price.
5. Make an Appointment and Deliver Your Presentation
Call the appropriate executive. In small companies, it's the CEO. In larger companies, it's a department manager. Present your idea in 10 minutes. (Rehearse beforehand). Say, "I know you can't make a decision on the spot. Could I call you at the end of the week?"
There's a sixth step. Waiting until enough time has passed is really painful. The best idea is to get started on the next one while you wait to hear about the last one.
John Sumser, a member of the Glassdoor Clearview Collection, is the founder and editor-in-chief of HRExaminer, a weekly online magazine about the people and technology of HR. Widely respected as an independent analyst, Sumser has been chronicling and critiquing the HRTechnology industry for eighteen years.