A challenging job market requires creative minds. Those who think outside the box will be the ones who succeed. And workforce development expert Larry Robbin and attendees at his workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development on March 6 highlighted the techniques and success of some of these maverick job seekers.
Here are their stories:
- A woman went into a retail shop and bought something very cheap, like a pair of socks. As she pulled out her wallet to pay, she said that she wanted to speak to the manager. The manager appeared in an instance thinking there’s a problem with the product, and that’s the point when the woman began to talk about her job search and what she could do for the manager if he hired her. He did.
- A young man was applying for a warehouse job, and at the end of the interview he pulled out a notebook. He told the interviewer that he’d only been out of prison for two weeks but had been to apply in person at 240 places, all of which were listed in the notebook. The hiring manager leafed through the pages and saw his local Ace Hardware store and asked the ex-offender to tell him about the store. He described it exactly, proving that he had indeed been there, and the hiring manager was so impressed he hired him on the spot.
- A man went to a job fair looking for a printing job and ended up talking to a banker about opportunities at her bank. That position wasn’t right for the job seeker, but he asked the banker, “Who does your printing?” The banker wasn’t sure but said she would find out and let him know. That connection led to a job.
- An out-of-work lawyer, went to law firms in the evenings and put his resume in a manila envelope which he slid under the door of each office. Why did he do this? The first person to arrive in the morning is usually the senior partner who runs the firm, and that person would see the envelope on the floor, pick it up and read what’s inside. An unorthodox way to look for a job, but it worked. The lawyer found employment.
- One of Larry Robbin’s clients went for a job interview with a janitorial service and asked the company why they didn’t do forensic cleanup. This type of job, also known as crime-scene cleanup, is performed by services that mop up the mess after violent crimes. The employer replied that it was a very good question, because it’s good work that brings in contracts with cities and states. Everyone they hired to do it in the past, however, left because they couldn’t stand dealing with the mess. The job seeker said that he had been a medic in Vietnam and had seen terrible things. He said “if you hire me on the spot, I will build your forensics business.” He was hired and did what he promised to do.
- People like to do businesses at places that hire people like themselves. Take the disabilities market, for example. That market, according to Robbin, is bigger than the African-American, Hispanic and Asian markets combined. He told the tale of a guy with disabilities who went into a grocery store and told the manager that people with disabilities shopped at the competition. “Hire me and I’ll get the disability market,” he said. “I’ll do publicity and distribute leaflets to potential customers.” He was hired, and within six months 29 percent of the store’s business came from people with disabilities.
Success is finding a gap in the market and offering to fill it or be determined enough to impress a hiring manager. In the case of the warehouse, the manager had probably never seen an applicant so driven. The grocery store manager had probably never even considered the value of hiring a disabled person. The janitorial service owner had considered forensic cleanup, but couldn’t find anyone to do it. There are opportunities everywhere. You just have to find them.
What are some success stories you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.