Do the wrong thing

BSOD 0x07B

I spent last Friday working (for pay), and this week I have phone calls with two more prospective clients.

As you likely know if you read this blog, this is an excellent development, as I’ve been in search of employment for, well, a while now.  Being an analytical sort, I’ve been giving some thought to how this came about (the theory being that, whatever it is, I should do more of it).  My conclusion: I should stop doing things right and keep doing things wrong.

If I were to offer a work-search road map based on my recent success, it would look something like this:

1.  Make a big deal about the fact that you are among the long-term unemployed. Tell everyone you know. Better yet: Find a national platform where you can broadcast this news to the world. No one will hire me! This sucks! You get the idea.

2.  Once you have succeeded in spreading word of your unemployability, do something to up the stakes. For example, you might consider telling everyone you know about your struggle with alcohol and how going public with unemployment reminds you of the first time you attended an AA meeting. Again, this is best done in the most public way possible—ideally on a national platform.

3.  Start slacking off a bit on your job search. Spend a lot of time in coffee shops. Go to the movies. Again, do your best to tell everyone you know that no one will hire you and that this has been the case for a long time.  Actually, don’t limit yourself to people you know—go up to strangers, introduce yourself, and try to work this into conversation.

4.  When the publicity around your unemployment starts to die down—if you’ve done things right, hundreds if not thousands of people will have been informed of your futile search for work—find a way to keep it in the spotlight. You might consider starting a blog about how no one will hire you. Update it regularly and post links to Facebook and Twitter so that strangers as well as friends become aware of your dilemma.

5.  Repeat the above as often as possible.

Okay, this is partly tongue in cheek, but really, only partly. The fact is, both my recent freelance project and one of my new work leads came from people who read this blog and the two much-discussed essays I previously published in Salon. The second lead came from a former neighbor I bumped into at the movies.  (This same friend has also become a terrific source of support and guidance for this blog.)

Before going public with my unemployment—you might even say I’ve made it my “brand”—I spent a good number of months following traditional job search guidelines:  Recognize that if you’re unemployed you’re at a disadvantage, so do your best to obscure this fact. Write enticing cover letters. Hone your interview skills.

Now, this is fine advice, great so far as it goes. At the same time, it clearly has its limits.  As for me, I’ve concluded that the time has come to diversify my strategies. There’s a place for doing everything right. And there’s a place for doing things wrong.

Copyright © Amy Gutman. All rights reserved.

18 thoughts on “Do the wrong thing

  1. May I suggest a reduction in hygiene? You have successfully embraced Northampton “casualness”, but UNEMPLOYED Northampton is even a few notches further down. This should land you something spectacular!

      • Susan, I was really counting on the fact that belonging to a coven would give me a leg up here. [Note to anyone else perusing this: I am not actually in a coven–not that there’s anything wrong with that. This is what we call an “inside joke.”]

  2. Of course, I love your humor, but I do have to say that I don’t see this as the wrong approach at all. No matter what your topic is, you are showcasing your writing, which is sharp, witty, and insightful. That can only be a productive contribution to your job search, no?

    Plus, isn’t all publicity good publicity?

    • In all seriousness, Molly, you make a good point. Clearly, this is only working for me b/c I actually *am* playing to my strengths. But that being said, I did put off trying this tactic for quite some time b/c of the concerns I touch on in the piece.

  3. This post reminds me of a Seinfeld episode. Remember “opposite George”? And they said that show was about nothing…

    • Yes, Ellen! In fact, another reader just posted a video clip of the episode right below your comment. As I said to her, if I’d thought of it I might have posted it myself.

  4. Amy,
    Nicely done!

    No one likes a complainer. You’ve turned your anger into a passion using your wonderful writing skills- obviously you are creative and a survivor!

    I see hundreds, literally, of job seekers who complain about the poor economy and use it as an excuse.

    No excuses! We all have strengths and people just have to find out about them. I am so glad to have discovered yours!

    Hannah
    aka @CareerSherpa

    • Thank you so much! Both for RT’ing earlier today and for taking the time to comment. The kind words mean extra much given your deep experience with these issues. Really look forward to getting to “know you” better in the Twitterverse, and again, many thanks!!

    • Thanks! And you’re right–that Seinfeld clip is a perfect complement to the piece. If I’d thought of it, I might have posted it myself.

  5. I love this! Of course, if you weren’t such a great (and funny) writer this strategy might not be as effective, but you are and I’m glad it’s working for you. From my tennis playing days, I recall the importance of changing a losing game; if you rushing net doesn’t work, try staying in the backcourt.

    Following in your footsteps, I’ve just blogged about how being unemployed has turned me back into a stay-at-home mom — to a puppy with separation anxiety! And now I’m going to use your blog’s broader audience to shamelessly self- and cross-promote:
    http://cambridgecanine.com/2011/12/cutting-the-apron-strings/

    • Thanks, Jan! And of course, I’m delighted that you’re sharing info re: your blog. CommentLuv limits you to just one post so great to give the Cambridge Canine info.

  6. You started my day off with a smile!! Both because of your good news and because of your usual wry and insightful take on it.

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