Careers For Dummies
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The approaches outlined in this list could help you avoid a long job-search slog and enable you to jump right into the workforce.

Just Walk Right In

Imagine that you’re awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from a stranger asking if you would take in a baby. If you’re like most people, you’d decline. Yet if the doorbell rang and you opened the door to find an infant on the threshold, you’d take it in. Right?

The power of showing up applies to job seekers. Today, when ads for good jobs attract gobs of applicants, walking into workplaces can be a faster way to land a job. It won’t get you a CEO gig but it can work for jobs other than burger-flipper.

But what if there’s a gatekeeper? This story may be inspiring. A client wanted to work for a large employer in Oakland, California. She showed up outside its doors a few minutes before 9 a.m. and approached a friendly person who was about to walk in. She said something like this: “I know this sounds weird, but I’d love to work here, and applying the traditional way is a brick wall. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to tell the security guard that I’m with you so that I can perhaps find a nice person willing to give me some insider advice.” After three negative replies, including one who said “Are you nuts?” one person said yes. When the job-seeker advanced past the security guard, she asked her escort: “I’m interested in being an analyst. Is there a floor you think I should try?" She got off the elevator at that floor, looked for people who looked friendly and not busy, and told them her tale. No, she didn’t get a job on the spot, but she formed a relationship with one person who gave her hints. A few months later — that’s fast for large employers — she was hired.

Another example: A client wanted to work at UC Berkeley. She didn’t care much what she did there. She was a soft-skilled person: friendly, detail-oriented, bright. She simply went to department offices that she found appealing — alumni relations, physical education, English, and student housing, for example. At the student affairs department, she was told of an upcoming opening, given tips on what to say in the application, and — voilà — two months later, given a coordinator job in a favorite department at her dream employer.

Get Outrageous

Most people have seen a job seeker’s outrageous tactics on TV or in a YouTube video. That’s just what the job seeker wanted: Media coverage for a job-search shenanigan yields exposure that he couldn’t buy with a lifetime premium membership in LinkedIn. Common outrageous approaches are to stick an enlargement of your resume on a sandwich board and then, in your would-be work getup, parade up and down a street crammed with rich people — for example, in the financial district or on a Pucci, Gucci, hoochy-koochy block.

An even more flamboyant variation would be to wear a costume — for example, prison stripes while holding a sign: “Unemployed — I’m a prisoner in my parent’s house.”

Pitch a half-dozen TV and radio stations, newspapers, and local websites such as NextDoor, and maybe one will pick up your story. Even if none do, your eagerness to work will be on full display for lots of well-heeled passersby. And to boost the potential benefit, have a friend record your pitch, edit it to the best or funniest clips (all lasting a few seconds apiece and no more than 1 minute total), post it on YouTube, and send the link to your immediate universe.

Or try the standard desperate-job-seeker’s tactic: Include a gift with a mailed-in job application, perhaps sent overnight so the packaging stands out. Its potential innards might say, “I’m a hotter salesperson than this salsa.” Or an envelope full of Hershey’s Kisses might state, “I’m sweet to work with.” A vertically challenged person could send a photo of himself, taken atop a box of nuts, saying, “I may be a peanut, but I’m not nuts. Interview me and you’ll see.”

Such audacity might (or certainly might not) also work at the interview stage. Imagine that you’re interviewing engineers and an applicant comes in with a coffeemaker he has designed. He offers to make a pot for the interviewers and, as the final touch, pulls out yummy pastries. You probably wouldn’t want your entire team to be gamesters, but mightn’t you want one?


Walking in may be the fastest way to get hired for an entry-level job. The call-email-call tactic may be the fastest route to a not-so-entry-level job: After hours, you leave voicemail for, say, a dozen target employers, immediately email them, and three days later, phone to follow up. You select those employers without regard to whether they’re advertising an appropriate opening.

Starting to get cold feet? You’re imposing no more than if you asked a stranger on the street for directions. If the person doesn’t want to help you, she can (and often will) say no. Nor should you let your fear of sounding stupid stop you. In the worst case, you flub — there are so many other employers. Just start with your least desirable employers so that if you do blow it, you’ve lost only your worst prospect. It may also help to remember that many sales reps make 50 to 100 sales calls a day and are usually selling something they care less about than about themselves. You, the job seeker, are selling yourself, and if you close just one sale, you make thousands of dollars.

So, can you suck it up? I’m asking you in one shot (yes, one shot) so you can get your job search over with, to call-email-call the 10 or 20 target employers. Don’t know who those people might be? Search LinkedIn on those places of employment.

Look for people with a job title that might hire someone at your level. For example, if you’re looking to be an individual contributor, you might look for people in a large company with the title of manager. If it’s a small company, director might also be an appropriate title. Do prefer someone from the desired division rather than HR. For example, if you’re looking for an analyst position, you might look for a title like director of research rather than HR director.

Here’s an example of how you might use call-email-call — of course, employers may well press Delete before you finish your first sentence, but you’re calling umpteen possibilities, and you only need one:
“Barbara, I suspect that you hate unsolicited calls but against the odds, view my assertiveness, as a plus. I’m a recent computer science graduate, and I seem to have a knack for explaining technical topics to nontechnical people. I’d imagine that your company trains its paraprofessional staff on, for example, the elements of software development, and I’m wondering if you might be willing to talk with me about the possibility of being a trainer of such topics for your employees. I’ve made a little YouTube video called “The Internet of Things For Dummies” to give you a sample of what I can do.”

“Of course, I’d love it if you called me to discuss a possible job, but I’d also be happy if you simply had some advice for me or a referral.

I’ll email you that video. Hoping to hear from you. My name is Nate Green, my phone number is 510-555-2368, and my email address is [email protected].”

Send that video and a nice note immediately, and if in three days you haven’t heard back, phone again and — whether speaking to the person or to voicemail — say something like this:
“Hi, this is Nate Green, that CS grad who’s eager to become a trainer. Not having heard from you, I assume you’re not interested in talking with me, but I know how things can fall between the cracks. So, like any good employee, I’m following up. If you’re open to speaking with me about how I might be of help to you, or even if you just have advice for me or a referral, I’d love to hear from you. But I won’t be a pest. If I don’t hear from you, I won’t bother you again. My phone number is 510-555-2368, and my email address is [email protected].”

Phone a Friend (Okay — 10 Friends)

Reach out. Your friends may even welcome the chance to help.

Phoning is more powerful than email or text. It’s harder for even your marginal friends to turn down the sound of your voice than to ignore the disembodied bits and bytes of an email or text message.

So list a dozen or two people who like you who could possibly hire you or refer you to a potential employer — everyone knows people. Sure, each person is unlikely to have something for you, but if you phone a bunch, you put the numbers game in your favor. Then call them all in one (okay, two) sittings, leaving voicemail as necessary. Here’s an example:
“Hi, this is Greg Michaels. I’m trying to find a first job in database management, but because job searches these days can take months, and because I could use the income and structure, I’m open even to interim jobs of whatever sort. As you know, I like work that requires good reasoning skills. By any chance, might you know someone who might want to hire someone like me or refer me to someone who could? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Actually, I’d like hearing from you, even if it’s just to chat; it’s been awhile. My phone number is 510-555-2368.”
This method may yield only an interim job. That’s okay. You wouldn’t be reading a chapter on ultrafast ways to land a job if you wanted to hold out for the dream position. Many people would be wise to take such a job. Just don’t work there so long that it vitiates your motivation and energy to look for something better.

I had a client, a UC Berkeley grad who worked as a Starbucks barista for seven years. When I asked why he stayed so long, he said, “Just inertia.” If you have to take a low-level job but aspire to something loftier, start developing relationships with higher-ups at your workplace and perhaps at headquarters — after all, many employers give employees a directory of internal phone numbers. Plus, continue networking and answering ads for good positions elsewhere.

Blast Your Social Media

An even faster and wider-reaching version of the phone-a-friend tactic from the preceding section is simply to send that email to all your LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends — you’ll see how good these friends really are. If you’re on Twitter, post a few-sentence version. If your friends are on Instagram or follow you on YouTube, you might even make your pitch on video.

Need to expand your social media network, and fast? On LinkedIn and Twitter, follow ten or more organizations that interest you and individuals there who could hire you. In inviting to connect with someone on LinkedIn, don’t use the standard invitation. Rather, in a sentence or two, explain what you like about the person or organization: for example, “I am an avid user of Evernote and would certainly consider working there. Might you add me to your LinkedIn connections?” Over the next week, post a few smart, occasionally flattering comments and questions on the Evernote feed. Then ask for an interview as described in the previous paragraphs. That should add some fresh folks to that blasted email blast.

Make ’Em an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Imagine that you’re an employer and someone comes to you, describes her skill set, and says,
“I’ll volunteer for a week for free. At that point, you can hire me or not. No risk. At minimum, you will have gotten a week’s worth of volunteer work to make your life easier.”
Of course, there are a million reasons an employer could say no: She doesn’t need anyone; that place of employment doesn’t allow volunteers except for college students; the organization’s insurance wouldn’t cover you if you slipped on a banana peel. But the fact is, the stars occasionally align: The employer is drowning in work and there’s no prohibition against volunteers. So you’re manna from heaven.

Use the Government

All those tax dollars that you or at least your parents pay are used for something. One is the labyrinth of federal, state, and local entities whose mission is to get you a job. In fact, the long arm of the law often strong-arms businesses wanting to expand to give government job-search entities the first crack at finding new-hires — that would be you. Fortunately, there’s a one-stop that knows about lots of those government agencies and programs, cleverly called CareerOneStop. They’re all over the United States.

Pitch Parishioners

Religiosity is in decline, but many people still participate in religious institutions, if only for a sense of community and to support each other in times of trouble. Well, your needing an ultrafast way to land a job may qualify as trouble. Give your pitch, striking the balance between confidence and humility, to parishioners and pastor alike. Strongly consider lay leaders, especially those in charge of fundraising. Usually, they have money and know people who do — the kind of people most likely to hire you or to know someone who can.

Start at the Bottom

I’m not saying that you need to take a McJob, although many successful people, looking back, were glad they did. But nearly always, there are can-you-start-now? openings in retail, especially around the holidays, as sales clerk, security guard, janitor, and warehouse person. Some may even be career launchpads: Plenty of pooh-bahs started as receptionists or in retail. Delivery services such as UPS and FedEx also hire for the holidays. Even if you omit that job from your resume, lest it restrict your career options, even a low-level job can be worth taking: It gets you out of the house and feeling better, if only because of the confidence you get from doing a good job. I had a client who was a chemist and needed out. She took an interim job as a Starbucks barista and loved it because, as she says, “I succeeded with every customer.” And, of course, you get paid — and low-pay jobs are minimally taxed.

Start an Instant Business

Let’s say it’s a few weeks before a holiday for which people buy stuff: Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day. Rent a well-located space for a month, or simply set up in an outdoor space near a busy intersection with a long traffic light, and sell. You can choose cool masks for Halloween or for Valentine’s Day go traditional with flowers, candy, or teddy bears, or get personal. (Use your imagination.)

The following idea takes a special kind of person, but is even faster and simpler and costs little to start. Find a manufacturer of the hot local sports team’s caps. Buy 100 at a good price, perhaps $2 apiece. You or a friend stands where fans will be walking to the day’s game, for example, in or near the train station near the stadium or in the parking lot, if allowed. On the head, stack as many caps as can stay steady, maybe 20. The caps sticking up will be seen from all around and attract attention, and you probably can sell lots at $10 a pop. As your stack gets low, add more from your warehouse (your plastic bag). You could clear a few hundred bucks in a few hours. Once you’ve polished your system, build a team of people doing hat sales for all the major local teams. Or branch out: When that superstar performer comes to the stadium, sell the swag.

I’ve saved the perhaps most offbeat instant business idea for last. This one is for counseling types: Set up a table on a street with busy foot traffic and, like Lucy did in the “Charlie Brown” cartoons, post a sign: “The Coach Is In. 5¢.” Try $5 or even $10. Nothing to lose.

Of course, most people find jobs in traditional ways, but especially if you’re feeling desperate, one of these Hail Marys could give you a prayer.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Marty Nemko, PhD, has been career coach to 5,400 clients, enjoys a 96% client-satisfaction rate, and was named "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach" by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He has been interviewed in hundreds of major publications from the New York Times to theLos Angeles Times, and has appeared onThe Today Show andThe Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He hostsWork with Marty Nemko on a National Public Radio station in San Francisco. His first job? Piano player in a Bronx bar at age 13. His second? Taxi driver.

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