In good economic times or bad, the word “jobs” always seems to be a main topic of conversation, blogs, and political debates. Politicians promise “the creation of jobs.” Many have “lost their job” and now need to “find a job.” Linkedin, which started off as a business networking site, now serves as a “job board.” There are not enough jobs for “job seekers” one day, and not enough qualified applicants for “available jobs” on other days.
I propose that we gravitate away from the notion of getting a job or having a job to the idea of creating and finding meaningful work. Like many, my husband and I have both experienced job losses over the years, in one instance it was my husband at the height of the unemployment crisis. I advised him to not even bother to go through the motions on the job boards. Too depressing. Instead, we agreed that he had a lot to offer companies, especially being an effective manufacturing and operations leader—something sorely lacking in our country since the shift to production overseas—and why not go about finding work, as opposed to finding a job. We developed a website and profile on various social media platforms that presented the good work he could do. And he spent his time contacting everyone he knew in various industries, offering his availability as a consultant, temporary turnaround manager, special projects work, and even business partner.
This approach accomplishes several things:
- He wasn’t putting people or organizations in a position of feeling bad about not giving him a job, making it more comfortable for both parties.
- It got business leaders thinking differently about how to uncover and use talent, without necessarily adding someone to their payroll.
- Approached as a temporary situation, the business owner didn’t have to commit.
- In a time when downsizing and layoffs are common, they could still get good work done by a talented individual, and be poised to be ahead of the competition when the economy bounced back.
- Both he and the employer would have an opportunity to work together and determine if there might be a fit for permanent employment.
Years ago I read a book called “Creating You & Co.” (http://www.amazon.com/Creating-You-Co-Learn-Career/dp/0738200328). I feel like the approach presented in this book is brilliant. You have something to offer, so find an organization that will make use of your talents. Create your own “job.” As Forbes contributor and Linkedin influencer Liz Ryan advises, find the pain points you can solve, and present how you will do it. Unfortunately, most organizations are still in the traditional “job” mode. “I’m sorry, we don’t have an opening right now.” In other words, “We don’t have a vacant cube with a very specific list of tasks available right now, and we are not forward thinking enough to find a way to use your unique talents in our organization.” How unfortunate for these close-minded companies! Think about how far they could advance by looking to the unique strengths and talents of an individual, rather than seeking out the highest number of key word matches on their resume.
The growing appeal of working for a start-up is evidence of the desire for people from Millenials to Baby Boomers to want to do good work, be part of something they can help build, and feel a sense of self that is hard to come by in common workplaces. Large organizations should pay attention to where the talent is going. Allowing flip-flops and dogs at work is not necessarily going to get them the best talent. Sloppy dressers, maybe. People who like dogs, definitely. But the most talented, giving, and excited employees? Not so sure.
Whether we are a “job seeker” or a “job giver,” let’s all shift our focus from good jobs to good work. Then, I bet we’ll start seeing real progress.