For the author of a book titled Get the Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring, career coach Ford R. Myers says something that's more than a little counterintuitive: "The best way to find a job is never to look for a job."
Myers, 54, of Haverford, knows that these are desperate times. But, he says, these times will pass and most people will find work again.
It's a hard message to believe, given economists' forecasts for the U.S. Labor Department's report on June employment, which is due out Thursday. Economists are predicting a 9.7 unemployment rate (up from 9.4 percent in May), with the nation's payrolls having shed anywhere from 380,000 to 400,000 jobs in June.
Yet, Myers can speak with some confidence, because, for most of his career, he has worked in the outplacement business, helping people find jobs after they have been laid off.
This is his fifth recession.
His book, published by John Wiley & Sons Inc., came out in May.
Question: Why do you say that the best way to find a job is to never look for a job?
Answer: In my opinion, nobody likes a desperate job seeker. You might as well go around saying, "I have leprosy." They get defensive if you tell them, 'I need a job. Can you get me a job?' Instead, I work with people to show them how to become a problem solver. A solution provider. Not a job applicant. It's a very different mind-set. Everyone loves a solution provider.
Q: That switches the balance of power, doesn't it? Now, the job seeker has something to offer. How does that play out in a job interview?
A: After saying "How are you?" and all of those niceties, the candidate says, "So how may I be of help to you today?" You see how that completely changes the entire dynamic in one sentence?
Q: Then what?
A: We want to teach the candidate a new approach in which their primary job is to ask probing questions to get to the heart of the employer's pain. Where is their need? Where is their challenge? Then, what the candidate should be thinking about is: What accomplishments can I share with this employer to show them how I can directly address their issues?
Q: What happens if you get laid off on a Friday? What's your first step?
A: The worst thing people can do if they lose their job on a Friday afternoon is rush home on Saturday morning and start sending out 500 resumes. This is the typical knee-jerk reaction. It's part of the desperate response, and I strongly recommend that people do not do that. What a person needs to do, I think, is just pause. They need to take stock, gather their materials, plan, get some help, regroup, and then begin a systematic, intelligent strategy.
Q: Day in and day out, what is the best approach?
A: I used to tell people that about 80 percent of their time should be networking. But in today's market, I tell them 95 percent of their time should be networking.
Q: What do you mean by networking?
A: It's a combination of face time - real people meeting across the table and also following up with e-mails, scheduling your day on your computer, doing some research. It's an integration of all these activities. And let's be clear. It takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of discipline, it takes a lot of motivation, but it's the only game in town.
Q: How much networking should you do?
A: Every candidate should try to have at least one networking meeting per day. Preferably even two. These could be follow-up networking meetings, they could be initial networking meetings, but it's all about getting your name out there, digging into the market, understanding what's going on, learning where there are needs, where there are problems, who might be hiring, which companies are growing. You have to have a good sense of what's going on in industry. Reading, studying, preparing is a very important part of the day.
Q: Everybody talks about networking. Sometimes, forgive me for saying this, it just seems like a lot of talk.
A: Let me be clear: When I say networking, I don't mean sitting around chit-chatting with some acquaintances or friends. I mean a very structured business meeting that has a purpose, with an agenda, with papers to look at and with specific desired outcomes.
Q: Papers? What papers would you bring?
A: I instruct my clients to bring three documents. One is called their one-page bio. That's literally a one-page overview of their professional background, written in paragraph form. It's more the kind of a thing you see on the back of a book where a novelist has a bio. It's a very soft-sell document. It doesn't look like a resume, because the resume screams, "I need a job."
Q: And the second document?
A: The second document they should bring is called the target list. This is a list of the industries and companies that the candidate is looking at, focusing on companies they'd most like to work for. And this is pre-researched, pre-prepared. This document really zeroes in and focuses the listener and the candidate on exactly the industries and the companies they're most interested in.
Q: You're looking for the person to help you with contacts and suggestions about those companies, right?
A: Right. The third document a person should bring is an agenda. It has maybe eight or ten bullets on it. It has the person's name at the top. It has the time frame. That shows that you're respecting the person's time. And it has the specific points you want to cover during that meeting. This shows the other person that you're serious, organized, disciplined, and that you know what you're doing.
Q: Did you ever get laid off?
A: I was the art director of [a] magazine - and the magazine went under. And so I was stuck without a job.
Q: How did your job search go?
A: I was clueless. I floundered, I wasted time, I tripped over myself, I did everything wrong, and, ultimately, I hired a career counselor who helped me a great, great deal.
Ford R. Myers
Hometown: Overbrook, then Lower Merion.
Company name: Career Potential L.L.C., Radnor
Title: President and founder.
Company focus: Career consulting and executive coaching.
How's business? Steady. In this economy, the demand is there, but not everyone can afford the service.
Skill: Former art director likes to draw, especially landscapes and people.
Yikes: Can't even cook a bowl of cereal. Eats takeout or frozen food, or mooches off friends.
More portions of the interview with Ford R. Myers will appear in Jane M. Von Bergen's blog over the next week.
Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or firstname.lastname@example.org.