- Chapter 31 -


People seek employment under different circumstances.  One occurs when a person is trying to determine long-term career plans and is proceeding with research and deliberation.  Another takes place when a person, perhaps through sheer economic necessity, needs a job - and soon.  This chapter covers the second circumstance, although there is considerable overlap in principles for both situations. job market serve, serving, work, working, worker ability abilities abilitys, interests, occupations, occupational, stress, stresses stressful stressful occupations, field service office manager management vocation vocational directions, employ, employers, employees, employment guidance potential expectation interview interviewing, interviewer satisfaction satisfied

How I became an office boy

A circumstance in my own life in the "got-to-get-a job" category gave me some helpful insights for my volunteer counseling with others.  When I was 16, I had accumulated enough credits to graduate from high school, but felt I was too young for college.  Anyhow, I did not know where I would go, nor did I have the money.  So, I set out to get a job.  It was 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression, and the unemployment rate was not 6%, 8%, or even 12%.  It was between 20% and 25%.

I walked around the block twice to get up enough nerve to make my first call and finally went into Atkins Hardware Company on Canal Street.

"Gotta job?"


I walked out and was thrilled.  I had made my first effort.  However, over a period of time, I developed more courage and a more intelligent approach to the matter.  I decided that the only job for which I was qualified was that of an office boy, as there were many offices with underpaid youngsters who ran errands and did menial tasks.  Never mind what kind of a job I wanted.  It never occurred to me that I could have a choice; it was what I could get.  So I started calling on prospects to offer my services as an office boy.  I did not realize that I was "marketing" myself!

Each day, day after day, I went downtown, dressed in my suit and tie, and called on offices, taking time out only for lunch, not for my benefit, but because employers themselves were out to lunch.  I started at the top floor of each office building, and after covering it, walked down to the next floor and went into every office there.  It became a kind of game, as to how many offices and how many floors I could cover in a day.

I remember one man who was looking at papers on his desk didn't even raise his head as he said, "No."  So I responded, in a cheery voice, "When you need one, I'll be back."  He looked up and laughed.

After three weeks, having made I don't know how many calls, I got my job on the 12th floor of the American Bank Building as an office boy, for $30 a month, working 48 hours a week with no payment for overtime, especially because, at that time, there was no established 40-hour work week.  I enjoyed my new experience, my first full-time job.

Then, I was offered another job, for $40 a month.  When I told my first employer I was leaving, he said, "You should have asked.  We would have paid you more."  But it was too late.  Being a restless kid, I detested my next job, sitting at a typewriter nine hours a day, each week day, and until l:00 p.m. on Saturday.  After months of this torture, I took a competitive exam and won a full-tuition scholarship to Princeton, and went off with my savings, to become, I am sure, the happiest freshman on campus.

What did I learn from this experience?

  1. It is necessary to determine what kind of position you are seeking in order to be effective.
  2. Looking for a job is a full-time assignment.
  3. It is necessary to call on prospective employers.
  4. Don't be shy about asking for a raise particularly if you have been offered a higher salary somewhere else; the offer gives you leverage.
  5. Don't stay at a job in which you are absolutely miserable.

Where to start

As far as determining what kind of position to seek, an amazing number of people with whom I counsel respond, "I don't know what's out there.  What are my options?"  In other words, they would like me to present a smorgasbord of opportunities for them to consider and compare.  Others, with more logic, state that they have not narrowed their goals for fear of losing other opportunities.  However, experience demonstrates that it is more helpful if a person has identified a job possibility in line with his or her skills and interests and then seeks such a position.

Fourteen specific suggestions, tested with experience, which have been helpful to many people are listed below:

  1. The most important rule is to try everything.

The more steps you take, the more people you ask for help, the more prospective employers you see, the better your chances are.  You get the point.  An interesting fact to keep in mind is that the person who gets the job is not necessarily the most qualified but the person who knows best how to get a job.  However, experience demonstrates that some methods are more productive than others, and we can review these.

  1. Ask you friends, relatives and acquaintances for help.

When a person becomes a real estate or life insurance salesperson, the first piece of advice from the company is to write every family member, friend, or acquaintance telling of the new association and asking for an opportunity to be of service.  It clearly works, or it wouldn't be such a standard procedure.  You can do the same thing as you begin looking for a job, asking for help, telling what kind of job you would like, the more specific the better, and attaching a resume.  Stretch your mind to think of as many people as possible, and don't forget the alumni of your college who live in the same community, whether you know them personally or not.

  1. Don't rely just on mailing out resumes.

It is necessary to compose a resume at the proper time, but I am sad to report that while mailing out resumes is safe and easy, especially as it does not result in the sense of personal rejection that a failed interview might,  rarely does this result in employment.  So many people pin their hopes on this procedure and are bitterly disappointed.

  1. Answer newspaper ads and follow news stories.

Answering newspaper ads can be worthwhile, but an additional idea is to call firms who placed ads six weeks earlier and ask whether they are satisfied with their choice, and if not, you would be glad to be interviewed.  Nervy?  Sure.  But the idea is to try everything.

Look for opportunities in news stories about expansions, contracts awarded, branch offices opened.  New product lines and additions to previous ones, as well as reorganizations, can indicate the possibility of job openings.  These all justify personal calls on the companies involved.

Frequent news stories list promotions, usually with pictures of the persons involved.  In these cases, congratulatory letters are in order accompanied by your resume and an offer of your services.

  1. Register at employment offices.

If you have some particular skill that is in demand, for example a computer specialty, registering at an employment office has value.  Otherwise, it is a long shot, but worth a try as part of the effort to make use of every single possibility.  Frequent call-backs and cultivating a friend in the office help.

  1. Try an imaginative approach.

The best illustration I know of this idea was a plan put into effect by Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping mogul, although the goal was not a job. employ employers, employees, employment interview directions, job guidance satisfaction, interviewer, job interviewing for a job, feeling satisfied

Early in his career, Onassis needed a loan but felt it would be impossible for him to get a positive reception from the bank president.  So he followed the bank president around and stood nearby in a visible, but not obtrusive, position.  Everywhere he went, Onassis went.  He never spoke, or even looked at him, but when the president left his office, there was Onassis.  When he came out from lunch, there he was again, and he was waiting in the street when the banker went to work.  Finally exasperated, the president turned to him and asked, "Who are you and what do you want?"

"My name is Onassis, and I want a loan," he replied.

He got it.

Be creative, and try to get employers to notice you.  Highlight your individual strengths.  I know a young architect who sent little boxes to three prospective employers.  The box had printed on it, "Cut here."  When it was opened, an abbreviated resume popped up in 3-D.  Architects like an imaginative, visual presentation, and in this case it got their attention.  Two out of the three prospects offered him a job, after interviews, of course.

Another imaginative approach, again not in the job search field but in a related one, shows a procedure for getting your point across.  A young man spends his working hours calling door to door in a retirement community, where people are likely to be home during the day, representing a stock and bond company.  When a person comes to the door, he presents his business card with a nickel taped to it.  This causes most people to laugh and somehow relaxes them from the fear so many have of strangers.  Within 30 seconds he tries to get them talking about themselves by asking a question, not one which can be answered "yes" or "no", but which calls for a longer explanation.  Examples are, "What an attractive home!  How long have you lived here?" or, if he sees a boat in the yard, "I see your boat.  Where do you go fishing?" job market, jobseeking, job seeking, find a job, finding a job, get a job, serve, serving, services, work, working, workers, ability, abilities, abilitys, interests, job interests, occupational stress, stresses getting a job, stressful occupation, field service office manager, office management vocations, vocational direction

Then, at an appropriate point, he asks, "Are you satisfied with the return you are getting on your Certificates of Deposit?"  Often enough, to more than justify the effort, he offers them a better investment opportunity and goes back on the date when they say their Certificates of Deposit are going to mature.  In other words, he is improving their financial situation -- and his own.

What about the idea of having business cards printed stating that you are a "Qualified Job Applicant"?

Such special efforts have to be done with skill and taste.  A person walking in front of the employment office with a sandwich board which says, "Hire me," might attract attention, but would probably be considered kooky and ineffective.

  1. See the employer personally.

The very best way to get a job is to see your prospective employer personally, yet this requires will power, perseverance, and full-time application to the task.  It worked in my office-boy effort, and it works better than any other approach.  People resist the idea because it involves rejection.  No one likes to be rejected, but this just has to be accepted as part of the process.  Make a game out of it; look upon it as an adventure, and as I say to people, "What could be a more worthwhile endeavor than determining the future vocation of Sam Fox?"

The best description of the process imaginable is: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO YES.

The wisdom in seeing people personally is summed up in a saying which I have used many times, "Don't write when you can telephone.  Don't telephone when you can see someone personally."

I have frequently been told, "I've tried and tried and can't get a job."

"What did you do yesterday afternoon?"

"I had to get a haircut."

"What did you do yesterday morning?"

"I had some banking to do."

"Tell me all the places you called on this week."

It turns out that "tried and tried" is hardly the proper description.

  1. The psychological value of constant effort.

One important factor is the therapeutic, psychological value of getting out and taking action in the job search.  Staying home and moping or climbing the walls doesn't help.  It also tends to develop a discouraged and pessimistic attitude which can be reflected, unavoidably, in interviews.  If ever there is a need for maintaining a positive attitude, it is during the job search.

  1. Find businesses which interest you.

People have said to me, "I want to do something, but I don't know what to do."  The answer is to start calling on prospective employers.  And how do you find them?  They are the businesses in your area of interest, because presumably you have identified for yourself what fields of activity appeal to you.  There is a way of finding out the names and addresses of companies which fit the description.  Use every resource possible, the Chamber of Commerce, for example, and the yellow pages of the telephone directory certainly.  Ask everyone you know for advice about potential employers.

Once, a young man telephoned me for advice in getting a job.  He had moved in from out of town and had virtually no contacts.  It turned out that he would like to be a salesman, but he did not know what he wanted to sell.  Not an easy case.  However, he was handsome, had a pleasing personality, and appeared to be a person who could succeed in sales.

He had no idea where to begin, so I suggested that he get the yellow pages of the telephone directory, go through it page by page, pick out products which appealed to him, and start calling on the companies which offer them.  If he wants to be a salesman, he has the greatest challenge ever, "cold calling," trying to sell himself.  When asked whether he has had any experience in a given line - and he had no experience in any line - the answer was, "I am sure you believe ability is far more important than experience.  I have ability.  I am a good salesman.  And I learn quickly."  At least that is the attitude a good salesman should have.  Pursuing that approach long enough will, eventually, instead of a NO, get a YES.

  1. Don't be put off by the Personnel Department.

Any person hunting for a job should know about the usual procedures in a large office for handling applicants.  One role of the personnel department is to screen out applicants in a way so as not to alienate the public.  The standard practice is to tell a person, "Fill out this application, and we will see what we can do."  If this happens, you know that the chances of anyone's even looking at your piece of paper again are infinitesimal.  You can always say to the person who passes out application forms, probably by the dozens, "Look, I really need a job.  Please take an interest in me.  If I fill this out, no one may ever look at it.  Can't you suggest a better way so that I can get consideration?  Who can I see?"  Bring that receptionist flowers the next day with a note, "I do need your help."

  1. Hire your employer.

Or, there is a still better way which has worked in the past.  It is what we call, "Hire your employer."  First identify the type of business you want to work for, then identify the company, and then identify the person in the company either for whom you would work directly or who could offer you a position.  Set out to get an interview with that person, jumping over the barrier of the personnel department.  Undertake a research project on the firm.  Do you remember the hours you put in researching a paper you wrote at college?  This justifies far more hours, and some ingenuity.  Inquire from friends about the company.  Ask someone to get a credit report and a description of the company from Dun and Bradstreet.  Your banker ought to be able to help, particularly if you tell him or her you would like to work for the company and are trying to get some background.  Someone at the Chamber of Commerce has material on the industry as a whole.  Find out where the employees hang out after work hours, and get to know some.

Try to meet the key person socially, if possible, at some civic meeting, or any way you can think of.  You can always follow them into an elevator, although this may give you very limited time for conversation.  Then you can say, "I am very much interested in your firm, Mr.(s.) Kendall, and am impressed by the new line you are adding from Topeka Forgings."

"How did you know about that?"

"Because I have been doing research on your firm."

"And why have you done that?"

"Because I would like to go to work for you.  May I come see you at your office?  I would be glad to call your secretary to set up an appointment."

Employers tend to hire people who very much want to be hired and show it.

  1. Do your research.

In relation to doing research on a given firm or on a vocational field in general, the importance of time and effort spent on research cannot be over-emphasized.  And a point to remember is that the best research is that which tells you NOT to do it.  There are many more possibilities for wrong and even disastrous choices than for right ones.  Solid research can improve the odds in your favor.

  1. Don't part with your letter of recommendation.

If you get a letter of recommendation, don't part with the one and only original copy.  Such a letter has more value if it is directed to the potential employer, but you may not get that job and it becomes a problem going back for other such letters.  A letter addressed "To Whom It May Concern" can be photo-copied.  When I write such a letter I make eight copies and sign them all, in blue ink so it doesn't look printed, as a signed letter has more effect.  Maybe you know your sponsor well enough to request similarly signed letters.

  1. Work as a temporary.

A final, and one of the best suggestions, is to work as a temporary through one of the many firms specializing in this field, such as "Kelly Girl".  A placement with a business where you perform well, and where they get to know you and you get to know them, frequently turns into a permanent position.  It is obviously important to seek such work in a field which you like and in which you have skills.  A young woman of my acquaintance got a supposedly temporary job at a store featuring women's fashions.  She sold three bridal gowns the first day, and the second day she was a permanent employee.

The suggestions outlined above may sound like being too pushy and aggressive, but in seeking a job, it is better to err in the direction of being forward rather than retiring.  Obviously, every case is different, and it has to be your style, or it won't work.

A good idea is to write every person with whom you have had an interview and thank them for taking the time to see you, even if you don't want the job or feel you have no chance.  You never know when this might turn into a contact for the future.  Also, if you are interested in a position and haven't heard anything from an interview in two weeks, you might send a diplomatic note saying that you are eagerly awaiting a response and that you believe you could perform well for that company or organization.

  1. Use the Internet.

The Internet is a great resource for jobseekers.

The following are just a few of the numerous websites which list hundreds of thousands of available jobs that you can apply for, and which allow you to to post your resume for potential employers to see.  Just click on any of the links below to be taken directly to their website.

Last updated:

(To suggest additions or changes to the above list, please contact the Webmaster.)

  1. Become a freelance consultant.

Instead of working for one company full-time, consider becoming an independent freelance consultant.

The following are a few of the numerous websites that offer information and resources of use to the independent consultant, as well as sites with listings of other work-at-home jobs:

One of the most effective "How To" books ever written is What Color Is Your Parachute?  A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles, Ten Speed Press.  It is revised every year and is a must for people looking for a job.  Practically every book store carries it, or you can order it from Amazon.com or What color is your parachute? Barnes & Noble.

Regarding a good approach in the search for a job, here is a story which is good for a chuckle.

A boy came into a pharmacy and made a call at the pay phone.

"Mr. Brown, do you need a delivery boy?"


"Well, if you have one, do you need a second?"


"If you don't need a second, suppose the only one you have doesn't work out?"


"You like him fine?  Well, thank you, Mr. Brown."

Hearing the conversation, the pharmacist said, "With that attitude, young man, you certainly should get a job."

"I have a job," he replied.  "I am Mr. Brown's delivery boy.  I was just trying to find out if I should ask for a raise."

Here is a review of suggested procedures for getting a job:

  1. Identify what you would like to do and what you believe your abilities to be.
  2. Let your family, friends, and acquaintances know of your job search, and ask for their help.
  3. Resolve to make this a full-time effort, every day, all working hours.  Maintain a positive attitude.
  4. Mailing resumes is generally less successful than other methods.  Try it if you like, but don't make this your only effort.  You will need a resume when you have a serious prospect.
  5. Try everything, but especially give some thought to possible imaginative and unusual approaches.
  6. Remember the vast majority of employment successes are achieved by face-to-face interviews.
  7. Call on prospective employers day in and day out.
  8. Probably the most effective way to get a job is to identify an employer for whom you would like to work, research information about that person and the firm, and make every effort to get an appointment.
  9. Consider working as a temporary in a field which you enjoy and in which you have skills to give yourself exposure to a possible permanent position.
  10. Use the Internet to search for a job and post your resume.
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