Stop Being Creative in Your Job Search

by Donlin, Kevin Wednesday, May 12, 2010
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“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”

That’s according to economist and Harvard professor, Theodore Levitt.

And that’s absolutely correct.

Especially in job hunting, where too many people think too much and do too little.

Want proof?

According to surveys cited by David Wessel in The Wall Street Journal, “The unemployed in the United States spend 40 minutes a day looking for work and 3 hours and 20 minutes a day watching TV.”

This may explain why the average job search in America now lasts 33 weeks, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics data from April 2010.

Thirty-three weeks -- more than 8 months -- is the longest it has taken Americans to find work in the history of this monthly survey, which dates to 1948.

Obviously, if it takes 8 months for the average person to find a job, something is seriously wrong with what average people are doing (or not doing) to look for work.

Can you afford to be average? I mean that literally: Do you have 8 months of savings in the bank to sustain an average job search?

If not, you need to go beyond the average and start doing new things. You need to start innovating.

While there’s no recipe for innovation that works for every job seeker, here’s helpful advice from author and radio show host Mel Robbins: “Innovation is about very small tweaks. It’s about taking a step to the right or left; it’s about experimenting.”

With that in mind, here is a three-step process to produce new ideas in your job search -- and act on them, because action is the key ingredient in innovation.

1) Think: Write down everything you have done that has produced at least one interview. (If your answer is Nothing, call people until you find one tactic that led to a job interview in the last 90 days.)

Do: Use that tactic on three employers today. Track your results, tweak your actions (if necessary) and try again on three new employers in 48 hours.

2) Think: Write down everything you have done that has produced no job interviews.

Do: Tweak or stop doing those things, today.

Hint: One fruitless tactic you’re likely using is to email your resume in response to advertised job openings.

If that hasn’t worked, tweak it one way -- mail, fax, or hand-deliver your resume for advertised job openings.

Or tweak it another way -- email your resume to employers who are not advertising openings; just be sure to send it to someone on the inside who can forward your resume to a hiring manager.

Which leads to...

3) Think: Write down every possible way to meet with someone at your target employers. Why? Because “meeting people” is the opposite of “emailing resumes,” which probably isn’t working, remember?

Two quick examples of how to meet people:

a) Ask the folks in your network for a connection to an employee, vendor, or customer of your target employer.

b) Dress up, get in the car, and drop your resume off with the receptionist. Say, “I’ve had trouble with email all week and wanted to make sure you guys got this.” Ask for his/her name. Then call the hiring manager and say, “I spoke with Cindy in your office yesterday. Did she hand you my resume?” Congratulations. You are now speaking with a hiring manager -- the goal of your job-search efforts.

Do: Find a way to meet someone at your target employer this week. Today, if possible.

Note: You should write down your answers to those three “Think” steps. If you’re not writing, you’re not thinking at full power, because writing on paper -- with a pen -- instantly clarifies and improves your thoughts. Try it now.

How likely are you to do any of this? Not very, if you’re average. That’s why average is easy -- you don’t have to do anything new. Mediocrity is comfortable … like sitting on the couch watching CNN.

But. If you want to stop being average and start getting more job interviews, stop trying to be “creative” -- which is often no more than glorified daydreaming -- and start innovating -- which is doing new things.

Creativity only sets the stage. Innovation gets things done.