Monday, March 21, 2005


Sure-fire employment techniques that NEVER LOSE!

Well, that's not true, actually. But last year I moved to a new town where I didn't know anybody, hardly, and I had to sink or swim, job-wise. Less than a month after moving, I was gainfully employed and looking down my noses at the legions of tattooed, pierced, green-haired panhandlers that infest Queen Street. What's my secret?

Like Bobby Hull said in the industrial training film, "POUR IT ON"!

Seriously though, what I did was to haul out my resume and polish it up. I made three resumes - one that emphasized my digital printing experience, one that emphasized my experience with conferences and exhibitions, and a "general purpose" resume that touched lightly on everything. I faxed and emailed these resumes to every job listing in every paper that seemed to slightly interest me. The daily paper, the alternative weekly, the "job guide" paper - they all got the treatment. I followed up every fax and email with phone calls until the people on the other end agreed to an interview or told me to shut up. I also did some digging and found some printing companies in the area that owned some specialized equipment that I'd recieved training on, and faxed them resumes that emphasized my talent with that piece of equipment.

On my third or fourth printing company call, the personnel guy told me about a local printing industry placement service. It was where he'd gotten his job from. I got their fax number and while I was at the Staples faxing them my resume, I noticed another ad in the paper - from that same agency - for a position I'd be perfect for. So I faxed them TWICE, and telephoned the next day.

That same week I interviewed at the agency. Coming from an industrial background and expecting more of the same, I didn't dress "corporate", but casually in a clean solid-color Oxford-type shirt and dark pants. No T-shirts or logos. Being new in town I had something to make small talk with, and I was able to "talk shop" well enough to be hired for a one-day contract that very same week. The following week I interviewed for another job. It was definitely corporate, so I wore a shirt, tie, slacks, etc. In fact I was a little overdressed, I think. That next Tuesday I began a one-month contract that turned into a 6-month contract. I was offered a permanent position at the end of that contract, but I had already accepted ANOTHER contract, which has since turned into a full-time permanent position.

In the month that I'd been looking, I had revised my resume about five times. I eliminated anything that was confusing or obscure or didn't fit the business world - and as valuable as I've found convention-running experience to be in my working life, it still looks terrible on a resume. I was lucky enough to have email and a telephone with an answering machine for followups, which are vital. I emailed my resume as a text file a few times, but I found that most places prefer PDF files, as they should. Towards the end of the month without work, I was emailing job notices that I only had tangential knowledge of - I haven't framed professionally in fifteen years, but darned if the framers in the want ads didn't get resumes - and other places that I had ZERO experience with, but that looked interesting. Who knows where a job is going to come from?

I was lucky enough that I didn't have to approach the chain stores or the fast-food restaurants, but believe me, a few weeks in the thought had crossed my mind more than once.

This resume-callback stuff is all well and good, but I'll tell you the only real reason I'm working right now. When I was in college I was working part time, 3 days a week (!!) at a printing company doing bindery work and deliveries and odd jobs - pleasant and non-taxing work I didn't have to think about much. Joe V. was working at an Alphagraphics, and he told me to apply to work there, because they really needed people, it was full time, and it paid a lot more. So, I left my comfort zone and applied for the Alphagraphics job in the bindery department, and I got the job. Immediately I was working harder, longer, and for more money, and it was kinda cool to be actually challenged, and rewarded for meeting the challenges. Soon I was offered the chance to be trained on the copiers, and I took the opportunity to learn something new.

I got canned from Alphagraphics after a year by my drunk-driving, cokehead supervisor, but my copier skill got me hired at another company. While at that company I was asked if I wanted to be trained on a digital color press. I had no knowledge of color printing or of printing presses, and had no idea how well I'd learn, but again, I took a swing at it. Pretty soon I was one of those employees every company has, who knows how to run every machine in the place. It's annoying always being the "go to" guy, but it looks great on a resume. When I moved up here I had a resume full of experience on dozens of different kinds of digital printers, copiers, graphics software, bindery equipment - and all because I left my comfort zone and learned new skills and kept learning more new skills.

So my employment advice is to take a job - just about any job - and do the hell out of it, and take whatever training you can at whatever software or machine or method they offer, and learn the hell out of THAT. Work harder and smarter than the other guy. Don't pass up a chance at overtime or special duty. Keep your criticism to specifics and put it into action. And the flip side is, know when you're in a bad employment situation and when to get out, which I should have done at Alphagraphics. Moving on to another job is always better than getting canned, even if you don't get unemployment compensation. Put all that on your resume and use this to get a BETTER job.

Repeat until you get rich or you die, whichever comes first.

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