Saturday, March 5, 2011

What's new and potent on job seeking, procrastination, self-employment, and thriving despite long-term unemployment

Here's the handout I'll distribute at my presentation at Grace Cathedral this Monday, Mar. 7, 2011 at 9 am. If you'd like to request a reservation to this free event, they want you to email

What's New and Potent

re job seeking, procrastination, self-employment, and thriving despite long-term unemployment

Marty Nemko
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, Mar. 7, 2011


I . For most people, there is no one right career. And the risk/reward ratio of waiting too long to pick is poor. As long as a career meets your career non-negotiables (e.g., uses an ability you love using,) pick something, even if it doesn't make you ecstatic. Career happiness, if it is to come, usually does so only after you've become the go-to guy/go-to girl, have good coworkers, etc.

II. Today, unless you're a star, landing a good job usually requires an A+ job search:

A. Strong internet/social media presence: a high-quality targeted Twitter stream and perhaps a blog or website, linked to Facebook and certainly LinkedIn. There, your goal: 10+ excellent recommendations

B. You or your champion submits a work product that makes your target employer want to hire you. Examples:

* White Paper. e.g., an aspiring CFO describes the top 10 trends in C-level financial work in a particular industry.
* Mini business plan--for example, the one I described regarding succession planning.
* Teaching portfolio including video.
* Under-the-radar sales-prospect list.
* An applicant sensing a fluid job description, writes a post-interview thank-you note that tactfully proposes a reinvented job description that would be better for the employer and for which the candidate is an ideal fit.

C. Ahead-of-the-pack cover letters and resumes. Sometimes that means prove, not just assert, your ability to be a superior employee in the applied-for position. Especially when you aren't superior, undersell, subtly appealing to emotion. Example:
Hello Sandy,

It was so nice of you to speak with me today. One of your first questions was for me to say a little something about myself. I'd like to say a little more, if I may.

If you look at my resume, you'll see that I worked at that little store for eight years. I worked there until it shut its doors. I was there so long because I liked it, and although I'm embarrassed to admit it, it was just easier to stay. Because of that, I didn't think about what I wanted to do next.

After the store closed, I discovered a career I had never heard of: prospect research. It sounded like something I'd love to do. So if you hire me (it was for a clerk position--$45K) it would be a first step toward that goal. Plus it would help a worthy organization like X hospital.

So that's my story. Forgive me for not being able to articulate that more clearly in our phone call.

I'm excited about the possibility of working for you but if it turns out I'm not the right person, I hope you find the perfect candidate.

D. Certainly, no cheesiness, for example, clich├ęs (I delight in exceeding customer expectations) or hyperbole (e.g., "Have an awesome day!") in cover letters, resumes, interviewing, networking

E. Call-email-call-call.

F. Talk less; listen more and better. (These are crucial!)

G. New forms of support
* A "board of directors"
* Co-peer-mentoring: Every week or more often if desired, support and gently counsel a friend for 10-15 minutes on an issue of his or her choice. Then switch roles. Tip: Just venting usually makes things worse. Have a solution-focused discussion.

H. Go to a professional conference; pitch yourself to exhibitors--that gives you easy access to many higher-ups.

I. When you start on your new job, ask sufficient questions. Early on, get a visible win(s.)


1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

2. Make it fun.

3. Become beholden to a loved one, support group, etc.

4. Picture the benefits of getting the task done--for example, getting your spouse off your back.

5. Jump-start yourself by doing the first one-second task--maybe it's open a computer file. That's not intimidating. Then do the next one-second task and the next one-second task, and soon, you're likely to be rolling.

6. The one-minute struggle. When you reach a roadblock, struggle for just 60 seconds. If you haven't yet made progress, you're unlikely to. Get help or go on.

7. Where would you place yourself on the continuum from parasite to host? Want to change?


Even smart generalists worry about their viability in an era of specialization. Be the glue that brings and holds together experts re a project or business.

Don't innovate; replicate.

Ask business owners and other higher-ups: "What's annoying?" A person thus started a biz planting Realtor signs. Another person shuttles a corporation's workers between headquarters and a remote site.

Other simple self-employment ideas: clean out people's garages and basements. wellness coach, gourmet trucks, wellness coaching, niche college counseling: athletes, artists, financial aid.

Key to successful small biz: Be cheap. Usually start by thinking, "How can I get this for free?" For example, "Instead of renting, could I get a friend's apartment that's empty during the day?"

Want to start a biz creating a web or mobile app? Check out


How I could live well on $20,000 a year.

A simple, often effective approach to reducing your fear:

1. Realize that all of us deserve to not be shackled by worry, even if you've made mistakes. We all have.

2.As soon as a worrisome thought enters your consciousness, quickly replace it with a productive activity.

3. If you can't thus distract yourself, ask yourself, What's the most likely positive outcome?" That will likely ease your anxiety. Then ask yourself, "What's the worst that's likely to happen? How could I cope with that?" You could, couldn't you?

For example, what if you never get any paying job again, even not a Wal-Mart greeter job? Per The New Republic, welfare benefits in Mississippi = 60K in earnings. (In the Bay Area, it would likely be even more.)

Occasionally, all it takes to stop drinking/doing drugs is to remind yourself why you're stopping and to rehearse what you'll do at danger times.


The lesson in my Dad's story: Never look back; always take the next baby step forward.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Marty. I'm looking forward to this event.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting your handout, especially for those of us who are unable attend your presentation tomorrow. - Sarah

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I especially like the first bullet-point "For most people, there is no one right career... pick something, even if it doesn't make you ecstatic...Career happiness, if it is to come, usually does so only after you've become the go-to guy/girl."

It seems particularly important to state this because there is a lot of talk about doing work that one is "passionate" about. There's the additional stress and pressure to identify at a young age what that passion is. But until you've had a couple of jobs and some life experiences, you can't say for sure what your career passion is or what you're good at. That's why I like the statement to just try something and dive-in head first even if you didn't peg it as your first-choice.

The point about being the go-to guy/girl is also particularly relevant. I've seen it so many times where a technical problem comes up, someone Googles the subject or uses Wikipedia to come up to speed and the result is only superficial knowledge of the problem. The go-to guys/girls are becoming more and more obsolete but more and more valuable as people want information without putting in the focussed effort.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

Anonymous said...

hey Marty,i appreciate this,please help me,i have done both accounts and computer science,am i wasted,or is there any way i can intergrate both in a career?

Marty Nemko said...

If you mean accounting and IT, definitely. For example, becoming part of a company's effort to upgrade its accounting software.

Anonymous said...

I was at your talk today, Marty and it was great! However, I do have one minor quibble. In a bad economy, even the "worst case" jobs are much more difficult to come by. If you go by the ads, the "nicer" retail establishments all want at least 2 years of retail experience and the "average" retail place would rather not hire someone who they deem too overqualified/old. Additionally, for certain seasonal jobs, gaps on resumes are penalized heavily. Do you know a lot of professionals in retail these days? Perhaps they had previous retail experience?

Marty Nemko said...

As I mentioned, "worst case jobs" are not at prestigious retailers. At average retailers, walking in, as I said to 10 or 20, will usually yield a job quite quickly.

Klaus said...

Marty, could you possibly post this on your main site ( Or, alternatively, perhaps you could post a how-to-print-on-Blogger tutorial and sticky it somewhere on the front page of your blog (I'm being serious)! See, I'm trying to print this article, but having little success. Doing so in Firefox just messes up the page formatting and doesn't print everything. Internet Explorer did print it more or less correctly, but the text was blurred and actually uncomfortable to read (my printer's fine: other sites print perfectly).

Sorry to sidetrack things. You would think Blogger would have its own print button to address this, you know?

Marty Nemko said...

Klaus, just cut and paste it into your word processor and it should print well enough. Candidly, I just can't take the time to do such things.