This post appeared on August 17th, 2009 as a part of the Career Corner Advice Series
I was at a career development conference last week and one of the keynote speakers—a fantastic Career Development professional named Denise Bissonnette—had a lot to say about this very idea. Her talk focused on the idea that professionals in the workforce today need to stop thinking of the job search as merely just seeing what is available and going for it. Rather, we need to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to our search. This means creating employment proposals as well as keeping an eye on emerging social trends and businesses.
Employment proposals can work for all kinds of career paths, from bookkeeping and technology to retail, service, and construction. Denise told stories of clients who have made such business proposals as creating a nighttime parking-lot security position at a hotel, a site preparation and cleanup position with a paint crew, and a range of other examples – people who said, “Here is a need that your company seems to have; here are the skills that I can use to fill that need; and here is how it will give you a competitive advantage.” As I listened I kept thinking, “This is what we at Idealist tell people to do in order to get their foot in the nonprofit door! Testify, sister!”
See, in the for-profit or the nonprofit world, companies and organizations need sharp-eyed professionals to step up and help create the workplace of the future. Entrepreneurship and innovation are not solely the domain of the start-ups; rather, everyone has the ability to look at the workplace as it already exists and say, “I see a need here that can easily be filled if only…”
Creating the “employment proposal” that Denise discusses in her presentation sounds a lot like what Meg and I call creating intentional opportunities: Know yourself and your set of skills; know the facts about the organization that you’d like to approach (including their strengths, areas of need, and human and fiscal resource constraints); and then pitch them an idea heavy on your own initiative, heavy on deliverables that will have a long-term benefit to the organization, and very light on staff time needed to manage you and your project. In other words, how can you give the organization as much as possible without asking too much of them in return?
Maybe you propose that you help make a painting company more efficient by showing up two hours before their crews to tape off the space and then coming back afterward to clean up. Maybe you propose that that you use your education and environmental studies background to create a series of brochures and free classes (with you writing the syllabus of course!) to educate the community about river cleanup.
Whatever it is, think about the job search as “job development” rather than simply “job hunting.”
Steven Joiner is the Director of the Career Transitions Program and author of The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers.