There are a lot of us who have interesting skills, but just can't seem to find the right place to put them to work.
It's easy to blame age or lack of expertise. But, it's often the case that we are square pegs in the land of round holes. For the most part, no amount of reshaping will actually turn a square peg into a right sized round one.
A resume is just one way to present yourself in the search for work and meaning. It works for lots of people. It doesn't work for everyone. Maybe you are one of the chosen few.
A smart alternative is called the one page business proposal. It takes a combination of hard work and the willingness to fail. If your job hunt is working for you, this is a good place to stop. If you want to try something different, read on.
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The basic idea is that you get to know a business well enough to make a clear proposal to them about adding value to their work. For a restaurant, it might be to open a catering business. For a gift store, it might be to run pop-up stores around town for a percentage. For a law firm, it could be underbidding the existing runners and copiers or indexing old files.
Instead of applying for a job, this approach makes you consider what the company really needs. You'll have to be diligent enough to get to know their business and make a really relevant suggestion. Like all business proposals, your chance of closing the first one is low. Your odds increase as you get better at the process.
Here's how to do it in five steps.
Get to know the business. (It doesn't matter which one, but do pick an operation that seems busy). Research their reputation online. Identify the local competitors. Figure out what makes a company like this succeed. In this phase, Google and Glassdoor are your best friends. Search and research the heck out of the company.
2. Visit the Company
This step requires that you make a call and get yourself a tour of the company. It's easy with small retail stores and a bit more complex for organizations with 100 or more employees. Get a good feel for what they do. Ask about their problems and successes. Be curious about them and do not ask for a job. If they ask why you are doing this, tell them you are doing a research survey of businesses in the area. (You are.)
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This is the really hard part. Take time to think about what you could offer the company. What is it that you know how to do that will make a difference. Try to think of something that will bring money in the door for the company.
4. Write a One Page Proposal
The key to the exercise is that your proposal be simple, clear and easy to make a decision on. The one page limit will force you to be very clear. Define the problem/opportunity. Describe the solution. Identify the completion date. Talk about the risks the company will take. Name your price.
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5. Make an Appointment and Deliver Your Presentation
Call the appropriate executive. In small companies, it's the CEO. In larger companies, it's a department manager. Present your idea in 10 minutes. (Rehearse beforehand). Say, "I know you can't make a decision on the spot. Could I call you at the end of the week?"
There's a sixth step. Waiting until enough time has passed is really painful. The best idea is to get started on the next one while you wait to hear about the last one.
John Sumser, a member of the Glassdoor Clearview Collection, is the founder and editor-in-chief of HRExaminer, a weekly online magazine about the people and technology of HR. Widely respected as an independent analyst, Sumser has been chronicling and critiquing the HRTechnology industry for eighteen years.