Feature Image source: Tom Humbarger’s Blog – 2007 Time Cover
The first time I got fired, it was shocking, next time not so much. I think some context is in order. I have written about my personal trauma when I got fired from the Bank after the financial collapse. Since then I have tried to create my own job and I have told myself that I should fire myself every time I get comfortable doing a job. It is a little over a year of my role as CFO of Guide to Iceland, once again we have hired my replacement. The team is doing great and I am really proud of all the achievements of Team Guide to Iceland. I am also really excited about the change and what next project I will jump into. There a number of ideas up in the air and you will be the first to know, well not actually but you know what I mean. I will write about it.
In case you have not noticed the addition to the Startup Iceland domain is the Jobs section. We are starting to work with Jobboard.io to enable companies in Iceland to list their jobs in Startup Iceland. Startup Iceland has a very diverse readership and audience, it amazes me that so many people actually participate, read and contribute to this crazy idea that started because I did not have a job. If you are reading this, thank you. I appreciate your participation and contribution.
Anyways, getting back to the story of jobs, I believe the way we work is changing. If you are comfortable at your job, I will caution you to really think about what is the real value you bring to the table. In a small place like Iceland it is easy to get a job if you are a local especially when the economy has been growing so fast. I think it is fleeting and this too shall change. I think the only thing that is constant is your own personal growth and contribution and constant inquisition into what value you bring to the table. When you are not able to answer that question, I think it is time you had an honest conversation with yourself or your better half. Listing of jobs in Iceland is only one small way to help immigrants like me to participate in this community. If you are a startup and looking to hire, go ahead use the opportunity to list your job in Startup Iceland, it costs less than taking out an advertisement in the newspaper and possibly you will get a candidate who thinks out of the box.
I have become a big fan of podcasts and James Altucher’s podcasts are really addictive and you get sucked in. James has gone through many things in his life and here he talks about Jobs – the good, the bad and the ugly. There are number of guests that James has interviewed who all talk about how the job market is changing. I really believe that if you don’t invest in yourself to understand what you are willing to get obsessed about, you will get caught wrong footed i.e. get fired like I did and I clearly knew what value I brought to the table and I thought I was on the top of my game.
So, what are the qualities that you need to cultivate to get or keep any job? I think you need to be an entrepreneur at heart, i.e constantly being proactive, looking for the hustle and how to move the needle forward every single day. If you are an entrepreneur or startup founder then you have no place to hide. If you don’t make progress then your business dies. I think that is the kind of thinking you need to have in your job. If you don’t have a job, how do you get one? One of my favourite authors is the late Dr.Steven Covey and he wrote a timeless piece on how to get any job you want. I am going to copy and paste the entire thing here because it is that good… read it, live it.
Getting Any Job You Want
Do I like it? Am I good at it? Does the world need it? Does my conscience direct me to get involved in it? If you can answer a good solid “Yes” to all four questions then you’ve got a great job—one worth going after or keeping. You may have to analyze deeper to know whether you can even answer these four questions. The exploration of these questions is a journey of uncovering what you really want to give your work life to. Taking the time to develop a clear vision on what’s truly important to you will give you the context and the positive energy to make all career and job decisions.
Now what if you do not yet have this “dream” job? Well, the world has profoundly changed over the past 10 years. The shift from the Industrial Age to the Information and Knowledge Worker Age is sweeping the country and totally changing the way business operates. The marketplace has become intensely customer-oriented, but this customer-focus has not yet affected most of those who are out looking for jobs.
The key to getting the job you want is to be oriented to the needs and wants of your customer, which is your prospective employer. Get out of your head and into theirs.
The traditional approach of sending out resumes, seeking employment interviews and filling out applications is illustrative of the old world approach to getting a job. It’s what I refer to as the “shotgun” approach, where your exposure to the market is very broad. The problem is that to the organizations that receive your resume, you are one of many hundreds or even thousands trying to get a job. Personnel offices are absolutely inundated with letters, resumes and phone calls from people who want work. As good or experienced as you may be, to most of them you are a “problem,” a “hassle,” one of a stack of letters or calls they have to answer today.
I do not mean to sound harsh, but this is the reality in most organizations in today’s rapidly changing and globally competitive environment. They are dealing with the pain of extensive downsizing and outsourcing. But there are jobs everywhere disguised as problems, even the problem of downsizing. The old saying is apt that “Problems are opportunities dressed in overalls.”
Bottom line, the shotgun approach of just sending out resumes and giving follow-up calls will, for the most part, rarely yield results better than you are getting. Why? Because those who look for work in this way are behaving as if they are the customer. Customers approach companies with a need and a problem that they want solved—in this case, the need is work—a job. Businesses already have more real customer needs and problems than they can handle. Can you see who and what you are competing with when you approach a company in this way? What you must be is a solution to the needs and problems which that organization and their customers face, not another problem.
If you are going to position yourself as a solution to some significant need or opportunity that an organization faces, you are going to have to take a rifle approach—one that focuses and penetrates deeply. You are going to have to be enormously resourceful and creative in learning about the organization you want to work for. Creativity is a unique human endowment, and is a powerful capacity that lies largely dormant in most people. Unfreeze yourself from the panic and nervousness you may feel about not having a job, and start immersing yourself in the realities of the company you want to work for. Creatively find ways of talking with and learning from the company’s employees and managers—talk to their suppliers, their customers, and even their competitors. Reach the point that you can describe their challenges and needs as well as or better than they could themselves. Then you can position yourself—your unique background, skills, education, experience and talents (some of which you may need to further develop first)—in the context of their needs. Your resourcefulness and insight will deeply impress them.
Finally, in your creative research it is vital to learn about the culture and norms of the organization. Every organization is different. This awareness should govern how you should approach the organization for an interview or meeting with their managers or executives. Be creative. It will be different in every case—for proactivity without empathy and awareness will also bring failure. Combine them, and you will have the wisdom that will bring tremendous results.
I acknowledge there will likely be few people who will take this advice and pay a sufficient price to really get the job and career they seek. Consequently, they will still be coming up with excuses as to why they’re not getting employment: blaming the economy, blaming the company, blaming prejudiced people, or blaming themselves. Work to get out of the reactive attitude of waiting for things to happen. Einstein put it this way, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” We must get with the spirit of the age, and gear ourselves to the needs of “our customer.”