The main thing i want to ask you about is jobs, specifically applying to them. At the moment I have limited contacts when it comes to finding a job, and I'm relying on career fairs in the town i live in, school jobs, and recently internet searches. I'm wondering, what would be the best way to find a job, specifically when you are not relying on contacts.
I had the idea to write a short letter along with a resume when applying for a few jobs at once,telling about my limited experience but strong enthusiasm to work hard and learn while producing value for whomever hires me. I'm not sure how frequently this tactic is used, or if a genuine letter would even be effective. I know you've never held a salaried job, but perhaps you've been asked this enough to have some experience in it by now.
The main point is I want to know if it makes a difference to have a genuine desire to learn and do good at your job, or if your employer won't be able to tell. And if it does make a difference, can it help you overcome short comings (like lack of that vital experience everyone is looking for).
Sorry this emails is getting a bit long, however I think I've only asked one big question with some small questions mixed in, so i hope it wont drain to much of your time as i would very much appreciate a prompt response on the issue, before you take time to write out a longer reply if you are going to do so. If this interrupts the process you usually use, again, sorry about that.
Wrapping this up now, I've noticed you have a lot of references to others websites and have a fair collection of them. Would it be a great deal of work to slowly gather them up and give them their own section, so your readers can see all the cool places they can go without crawling obsessively through the comments section? Not sure how hard it would be, but thought i should ask.
I'm not sure how you feel about getting links but i want to share some with you after i made you read this long email. The first is one i got from TED talks.
useful place if you ever feel like brushing up on your math skills or learning some new things.
the second and last link is a google books link, a fiction book but one i find enjoyable, interesting concepts there and knowing you like new ideas, figured i would share.
long link... anyway, sorry if the email is to long, but i really wanted to ask you this, and it seemed like i finally had a decent question i could ask.
thanks for continuing to have your tremendous insight, i think i can safely say your work is immensely valuable and valued by others.
a fan saying thank you
Hey J. Thanks for the nice email and good questions.
Re: links, that's one of those things that I've just never gotten around to. Someday I'll put up a list of books I recommend and sites I recommend, but it hasn't been a priority for me and I haven't yet felt inspired to jam on that one for a while. You're always welcome to ask for recommendations on a specific topic in the comments or via email if you think I might know something useful. I do like the Khan Academy (and TED), and thanks for the book recommendation.
Okay, jobs again, huh? Gosh I'm really not the best person to be asking about this, but I'll take a crack at it.
I shared some quick thoughts here - "Job Market Rut, eh?"
The basic idea there is personal connections and any tangible accomplishments (a track record) would help a lot. Being likable and personable go a long ways towards people wanting to work with you in most situations, and tangible accomplishments of any sort show you can get things done.
Beyond that, some quick thoughts -
1. People: Okay, you don't know many people. You might consider going where people in the industry you want to work hang out, and meet people and be friendly. When asked what you do, you might say something like, "My background is in X, but I've actually been looking for an X-position lately." I'm with my friend who used to work for IBM back in the USA before coming to Asia, and as soon as he got here he started going to the American Chamber of Commerce. When asked what he did, he told them he was a consultant back in the USA but just got here and so isn't working. He got a number of job offers from that.
Pretty much any major industry will have a few places where people from that industry hang out. Figure out where it is, go there, and don't be shy about saying you're out of work. It can't hurt.
2. Accomplishments of any sort: You say you're missing experience. Okay. I'd recommend you accomplish anything tangible. Ideally in your desired field, but even unrelated. If I was choosing between two candidates who were both friendly and likable, seemed intelligent and capable, and neither of them had had much professional experiences - but one of them organized a door to door charity event, or founded a local board game night, or anything... that'd sway me a little that candidate's way. Of course, professional or tangential-to-your-profession experience helps. If you're in technology or design, it's not hard to quickly put together a portfolio of free or cheap work you did or work on open source projects or some such. But even if you're in something that's harder to get some quick practical accomplishments, you could probably write a paper on your thoughts on the industry and put it online, or start a blog, or even just review the top most popular books in the space right now. Anything is better than nothing. Hell, even something totally unrelated to your profession is better than nothing.
3. Fanatical research and preparation: This is something I'm a fan of anyways - instead of shotgunning out your resume, you could try to research 5-10 companies you really respect, learn a ton of things about them, and then go visit them personally and try to talk to anyone there. Be friendly, personable, and just express your sincere love for the company and that you think you might be a good fit. Perhaps write a rough sketch of how you think you could with the company and advance their goals. Try to understand their general strategy, business model, what actually happens at the company, the culture there, and so on.
If you want some inspiration, I love Jason Zimdars's pitch to 37Signals. It doesn't have to be that polished, but that should get the gears turning in your head. Even writing up a few pages on nice paper about what you understand about the company, why you like and respect them, and how you think you could fit in would go a long ways.
Hope that helps! Regards and hoping for much prosperity for you,
What I'd say for jobs is: aim for something skilled, and figure out how to get the skills. Right now, the economy (at least in the US) is splitting in two, and it's going to get more so before it gets less... There's still a recession in unskilled jobs, and outsourcing and automation and upheaval are all going to keep making it worse for a long time yet.
On the other hand, skilled jobs that require dedication are doing well, there's often a shortage of good people, the salaries are rising, and they're much harder to outsource or automate, and they handle a bad economy or (usually) an industry upheaval much better. Those jobs are doing just fine right now, thanks, despite continued shakiness in the larger economy.
The thing is, for a job like that, you need some kind of demonstrable skill. I'm a computer programmer, which doesn't necessarily require a formal education but *does* require many, many hours of unpaid practice. So, y'know, you can't get that on short notice. It's very hard to get *any* good job skill on short notice.
So if you haven't got at least one serious job skill which can be demonstrated somehow, go get one, or plan how to do so.
"Demonstrated somehow"? Yeah. Portfolio, or previous projects, or a certificate or diploma, or good references from somebody who has worked with you, or... Well, depends on your field, really. But there's generally something, because how else do you hire people?
Thanks for the advice, it came in handy at the career fair today, which i recommend to anyone who wants to be exposed to business people, information, or just wants to socialize without a ton of pressure. These people don't care if you stumble over your words if they are not hiring you.
Your right about having something you've accomplished, i came with a short program to just show i was competent and they really liked it.
A few days ago, I wrote an open letter to a good friend of mine - "I Think Greatness is Something You Are, Not Something You Do" - I said to him, I'm not a great man, just a normal man working on great things. Greatness is something you do, not something you are.
To give you some background, my friend Brendon is just one of the most amazingly good people in the world. He takes care of everyone around him, his mind, body, and spirit are sharp. He's a black belt, an excellent programmer, a philosopher, a Shodan in Go (actually, even stronger than that - he's a Shodan under the Asian rankings, so probably even higher in America), a hard worker, extremely loyal, a clear and free thinker, widely read and knowledgeable, and again - an amazingly good guy. I've learned a lot from him (notably, he taught me how to play Go, sysadmin Linux, understand basketball at a very high level, improve at martial arts, improve my fitness, and other good stuff - we'd usually go drink green tea and play Go at Samurai Restaurant in Boston, go fight in the park, talk philosophy out at nightclubs, do stuff like that).
He wrote back to me about greatness and humility. I think this is a really beautiful piece, so I asked him if I could gently edit it and put it up. He graciously agreed. It's long, but go ahead and just start it and give it whatever time you have - there's a lot of amazing insight in here.
A Quick Favor Request - if you learn from this or it helps you, please send Brendon a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org - he was actually a little gun-shy about having such a personal piece put up with such raw power in it. He only agreed when I told him how many people it could help - so please, drop him a short line to say thanks if this teaches you as much as it did me.
Without further ado...
If you paid me fifty times what I make now to work at a regular job, I wouldn't do it.
Over the past few weeks I've informally asked some of my other entrepreneur friends how much they'd have to be paid to work a normal job in their industry. None of them quoted any reasonable figure. Some of them didn't want to answer the question because it was so uncomfortable to think about.
When Justin Frankel, creator of Winamp, quit AOL, he was offered a job by Microsoft. They asked what he needed to work there, and he responded with a written offer. In his list of necessities were things like a private jet, the ability to work remotely 100% of the time, and all boat rental fees to be reimbursed. It was a joke, but he sent it to them anyway. That's how abhorrent the idea of a real job was to him.