Still looking for work? How to stand out from the crowd

David Hughen thinks about work differently than most of us do. He’s in HR.

Specifically, he’s a strategic HR consultant and business coach at Austin WorkNet, which means he talks to a lot of people looking for employees and employers. So there’s something to be said for his perspective.

David contributed this to our latest issue of GivingCity Austin, and I thought it was worth excerpting here for those of you who might need a dose of inspiration on your job search. Good luck!

In response to this emerging work dynamic, I’ve rethought how I approach these career discussions. Though I’m happy to have a pay-it-forward discussion with someone about “what’s next,” I need to make it more relevant to our current times. Why go through the motions when the very nature of work is being redefined?

This new approach to work should place an emphasis on how folks who are unemployed, under-employed or  nervously employed can distinguish themselves from the other job seekers and define themselves for the long-term.

We’ve come to know that organizations, whether for-profit or non-profit, are under intense pressure to be effective. Thus, the notion of work is emerging with new definitions.

Noted author Charles Handy has suggested that “working organizations” are not in the position to be an alternative community providing meaning and work for one’s adult life. Instead, Handy’s view is that if we each considered ourselves “self employed” throughout our working life, we would never be unemployed.

So my Starbucks sessions now take a different course. If I can gain the trust of this individual who is anxious, stressed, unsure of the future, and at a low point of confidence, then I press upon them the
following principles:

Become a brand

A deep, honest exploration of your skills, interests and competencies serves as the definition of your “brand.” Turn your brand on by giving it a name (something more creative than “Jan Enterprises,” please!), create a website, a domain name, a logo, business cards, a charter statement.

Think about it. When you’ve met someone at a party and asked “what do you,” the job seeker’s response may be “WelL, I’m looking for a job.” Wouldn’t you be better served by responding to that question with your business card and your brand’s charter?

This takes some exercising of different muscles. But, in time, your brand becomes the essence of who you are.

If you have a traditional job—working for an employer as an employee—then your brand is partially, but not exclusively, defined by that job. You have the luxury of carrying two business cards.

Connect your brand to a nonprofit
Your personal definition gains depth and substance when you share your expertise freely and willingly with organizations
doing good in the community. And when I say “share your expertise” I mean find out how you can help the nonprofit improve its operations by applying your expertise.

This act of giving is a form of personal, mental health. It’s the gift that gives back in a number of ways. Practically speaking, it keeps your chops sharp when you aren’t working a traditional job and gives you access to the nonprofit’s well-connected board of directors. It ties you to people who sacrifice every day to give back to the community for low or no pay. That’s a crucial perspective and a grounding force.

There’s something bigger than you

Having spent 10 years in the world of startup, entrepreneurial companies I’ve come to understand the value of humility. In small, fast-moving organizations, you have the greatest likelihood of fitting in with the team if you carry yourself without a sense of entitlement.

Knowing that there’s something infinitely greater than you in this world provides a different perspective. People are more likely to be associated with you when you present yourself in this manner. It means you’re more willing to flex into new situations. And, when it comes to defining your brand, this sense of humility provides substance that goes beyond definition. It’s who you are no matter how you define your work.

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