Better than Unemployed

The Freelancer Technique

Similar to the Puppy Dog Close, the Freelancer Technique works especially well in fields where freelancing (independent contracting) is commonplace. A recent college grad used this technique very successfully in the advertising field. He put together a full portfolio of services he could provide to local advertising firms, including freelance writing, design, and voice talent. He then contacted all the area advertising agencies, said he had some materials to forward to them, and asked if they would give him the name of the owner or creative director of the agency. They all did, and his first goal was achieved: he had the names of the target contacts. He then contacted those individuals, introducing himself as a potential freelancer in several different areas. Several set up appointments to talk about potentially working with him on a freelance contract basis. These appointments (interviews?) allowed him to show his work portfolio and open the door when future needs would arise. He then followed up with a "thank you" note to each.

The result? In less than two weeks, he had gone from being a total unknown in the ad agency business to one of the best-known freelancers in the area. He came up with several freelance contracts, and eventually landed a job with one of the agencies he freelanced for as an account executive and copywriter.

Why does this approach work? Because most companies will only talk about "employment" when they have a current, active hiring need. If they don't have headcount allocation, there is no interest in external talent wanting to be hired. If he had sent out his material as a solicitation for employment, he likely would have gotten no response. But many companies are very willing to talk to freelancers regardless of their current hiring needs.

The Freelancer Technique works well in all fields where independent contractors are commonplace, such as the creative fields (Advertising, Publishing, Writing, Arts), technical fields (Software, Engineering), and specialty fields (Accounting, Legal, Medical). The side benefit is that the pay is usually quite good (anywhere from 25 to 100 percent higher than the average wage for similar in-house work), although you are on your own in the perks category.

It usually costs very little to establish yourself as a freelancer (other than a basic work portfolio and an outline of your services), and it often opens doors that would otherwise be shut. And it sure beats flipping burgers at McDonald's!

The Work Down Under Technique

Not Australia, but down under the position you are seeking. This is a technique best used by someone who is already currently unemployed or underemployed. If you cannot find work at the level you desire, you might consider starting at a lower level and working your way up. The days of "starting in the mailroom" are not necessarily past. But these days the "mailroom" may be in administrative, clerical, call center, tech support or other support positions. One college graduate who could not find an entry level job in advertising took a job as an administrative assistant with a large ad agency. Within two years, she was working in her "dream job" as an ad copywriter handling one of the agency's largest national accounts.

The Partially Employed Technique

When looking for companies that may have an interest in your skills, consider working for a smaller company that is unable to hire someone full-time at the going market rate, but may be willing to bring you on part-time.

In a smaller company or small department at a bigger company, it is often difficult to add one full-time equivalent (FTE). If there are only five people in the company (or in the department), adding one more person requires a full 20% more work. While that might not be immediately justified, there may be an uptick of 10% more work that currently needs completing. And that is where part-time status comes in.

By working part-time, you are often more able to gather higher-level experience than if you sought a lower-level, permanent, full-time position. And by working with a smaller company, the experience will likely be much broader, since each employee typically wears many different hats.

If you do outstanding work for them, they will be happy to give you an excellent reference. Or they may surprise you by offering you full-time work in some combination of duties. It's a start—and often that is all it takes.

The Temporarily Employed Technique

If you are seeking both a way to keep busy and a way to gain valuable experience (and contacts!), temporary employment, temping, may be the solution. Many temporary help agencies are quite willing to work with new college grads, with assignments ranging from basic clerical to office administrative to para-professional.

It should be noted that general temping is different from the Puppy Dog Close selective temping in that you have little control over the assignment and company location. You are signing up with the temp agency and waiting for them to have an opening with one of their clients. But it could provide you with an extra measure of experience to include on your resume and can help pay the bills until a real job comes along. Always keep your eyes open for new opportunities with the employer for which you work. You are now on the inside and have access to otherwise unavailable information.

The Voluntarily Employed Technique

If you are unable to locate temp or part-time paid work elsewhere, you may want to consider expanding your experience by volunteering for a local school, government agency, association, or community service organization. You can often work at the same professional level you are seeking as your long-term goal, so the experience will serve you well both on your resume and within the interview. Plus, not-for-profits often have good connections in the business community, so you may be able to develop further network contacts.