Job-hunting? Don’t apply and fill, create and pitch

2010 Update: I made the decision to bring Say “Alaka‘i” here to Talking Story in late May of 2010 when the Honolulu Advertiser, where the blog previously appeared, was merged with the Star Bulletin (Read more at Say “Alaka‘i” is Returning to the Mothership).

Therefore, the post appearing below is a copy of the one which had originally appeared there on January 4, 2009, so we will be able to reference it in the future when the original url it had been published on is no more…


Job-hunting? Don’t apply and fill, create and pitch

Today I am reprinting Sunday’s Say “Alaka‘i” blog post in total here, for some variation of this conversation is coming up quite a bit currently. While it is directed toward job-hunting for managers who now find themselves out of work, it may apply most of all to those who still have their jobs, but are feeling nervous, seeing “the writing on the wall” and wondering when your number may be up too.

This economic recession we are in, sends out this message: No job is safe. To keep it, you have to deliver just one kind of result, and that’s financing your own paycheck with profits. At the very least, every manager should be educating themselves thoroughly about the state of their company’s financial health: Are they on as solid a footing as you think they are? Many companies are surprising us right now.

Here is a snippet of another article at The Honolulu Advertiser today: 2008 saw end to many big brands:

NEW YORK — Shoppers won’t be picking up ornate lamps from the Bombay Co. in the coming year. Or investing with Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. No flying to Hawai’i on Aloha Airlines or buying ultra-cheap tickets on Skybus, either.

All those names vanished in the past year, victims of the economy, the financial meltdown or other factors. Experts say 2009 could mark the end of even more well-known brands as the now yearlong recession puts more struggling companies on life support.

“I think 2009 is going to be a bloodbath,” said Scott Testa, a marketing professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “I think it’s going to be very, very ugly.”

Here’s today’s Say “Alaka‘i” article: Job-hunting? Don’t apply and fill, create and pitch. My intention is NOT to bring you down this morning, but to help you see what you CAN do, and should be.

~ Rosa

Welcome to Sunday Koa Kākou. Sunday is the day I answer questions you send to me. If you have a question connected to management and leadership, leave a comment here, or email me.

From the Say “Alaka‘i” mailbox:

I was laid off recently, and while it was upsetting, I can’t say I was surprised, for it was obvious that the company couldn’t afford to keep me and the others who were let go (all of us managers). I’ve been looking for another job for about three months now and it’s been tough: I’ve just found an hourly position that will help me get most of my bills paid, but I want to get back into management and I’m going to keep looking. Any advice? The rejection has been grueling.

That sage advice of fulfill the biggest need is still the best advice I can give you.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone with the ability to hire you and keep paying you: What are they looking for, and why should they hire you, unless they are sure you’ll deliver what they need?

Fulfill the Biggest Need

There are two things business owners are focused on right now, and they go together:

a) Boosting cash flow quickly

b) Making customers deliriously happy

Said another way, cash is King and a paying customer’s loyalty is Queen.

To be blunt, these two things were not the priority for most managers before our current economic recession. Most managers were focused on making everyone else happy (employees, peers, the boss, vendors, suppliers and other partnerships). They were preoccupied with organizational systems and processes, most of which need to be reinvented right now, not maintained. Why should any business owner maintain something that isn’t working?

Business is, and has always been, about money and about the value add for a customer that results in market share (i.e. brand penetration). Those are not bad things, however this recession has made that truism blatantly real and completely unavoidable for every single person in a company ”“ you can’t departmentalize them anymore as the responsibility of the sales and marketing people, or those in customer service who “directly touch the customer.”

Job-hunting is a waste of your time and your brainpower

If a management or leadership role is what you are looking for, there really is no such thing as ‘job hunting’ now… it’s like trying to go fishing in a desert. If you want someone to hire you, (or recast or promote you) when almost no one is hiring, you have to be a) more creative and b) much more proactive. You cannot apply for, and realistically hope to fill jobs that are old news and simply not there: You have to be the one who creates a new role, a highly necessary and desirable one, and then pitches it to the employer in the best position to hire you, and give you the opportunity to test your creation and earn your keep.

Go back and read that last sentence again: You have to author a job description for yourself. It must be one that showcases your best talents with cash generation and customer satisfaction in a company. You must propose it to a prospective employer BEFORE they hire you and pay you a dime. It’s the new resume you take to an interview.

And keep this in mind: They probably aren’t even scheduling any interviews. You have to call for an appointment when you’ve scoped out and chosen the company you want to work for, by saying something like this,

“I have a proposal I’d like to discuss with you. My proposal has two deliverables: Increased cash flow, and happy customers. I am a big fan of your product and services, and I have been one of your customers: I’m very interested in helping you succeed. Do you have some time this week to meet with me?”

The only one actually ‘interviewing’ is you

What I am suggesting you do takes work on your part, but it is creative work that will burst open far better possibilities for you. So make the entire process worth your time and effort. Do your homework on a company’s values, mission and vision. Interview the company which deserves to hear your proposal. Think of them as your best-case scenario buyer of your idea, and a purchaser of you as a package deal of ready-to-hit-the-ground-running talent, skills, and knowledge.

Every savvy business owner knows that there is one thing better than buying a patent: Hiring the inventor.

Good luck to you! Pull this off, and you’ll discover there’s another huge bonus: From here on in, you’ll be working on management the way it should be done in the first place.

A bit of related reading:
If you missed it, I wrote about the best role for managers in another Sunday Koa Kākou response just two weeks ago: Staying Positive in a Negative Workplace.

Go to the sub-heading within that article titled “How will you know if your managers are up to the challenge?”

Keep in mind that this describes the role someone with a calling for management eventually wants to be filling, however in today’s recession, you must work on the ‘King and Queen’ we talked about above first.


  1. says

    Rosa, one item I would add to this great advice is to leverage your network to practice your pitch, get the information you need on the company, and finally the proper person within that company to make this pitch.
    The individual doesn’t need to do this alone. Yes, they should determine their strengths, desires, goals. But polishing their pitch is best done by leveraging their network. Other viewpoints can help fine tune the presentation to make it the best it can be.
    The same network can help identify someone who knows someone… in six degrees or less, you should be able to get some help from within the company to get to the person you need to make the pitch to.
    I am on this path and this is what I plan on doing. If I learn something else along the way, I will gladly share it here and elsewhere.

  2. says

    Good advice Steve, thank you. Excellent really, for your network can likely provide you with insight, recommendations and perhaps most golden, a personal and valuable introduction. I use “pitch” here mostly as verb, for the word does have some less-than-favorable connotations as a noun.
    I have received a few private emails since posting this today, and have a feeling this discussion will prompt a follow-up or two, so I do appreciate you sharing your advice and learning with me, and with all of us.

  3. says

    You are most welcome Rosa!
    A networking group formed in my neighborhood a couple of years ago. At the time, a few had just gotten affected by layoff so we gathered together to help out. The group has met regularly every 6-8 weeks or so and so far everyone active in the group has gotten a new opportunity following those steps.
    The group has a challenge beginning this year with about 8 of us now looking but with our process in operation, we expect to continue to be successful.
    As I mentioned earlier, as we learn anything new, I will be sharing that here and elsewhere. Sharing what we learn can bring about new learning!