The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
I’ve been describing the job search of an imaginary client, Beryl Klein. Although Beryl’s story has all of the ingredients of a real search, there may be a limit to how much inspiration actual job hunters can take from him. After all, he’s not real, and it may be hard to believe that the steps he takes really work. So I’d like to describe an actual job search that just recently reached a successful conclusion. I’ll give this real client the imaginary name Arthur.
Arthur began his job search three years ago, when he reached a point which I call “the kollel conundrum.” He was in his late twenties, had two kids, no visible job skills, and no idea how to proceed. His first foray actually turned out pretty well, when he followed the advice of the well-known radio ad, and he went to B&H. There he quickly learned how to use several popular cameras, and became a resource for the salespeople. When a customer was considering a specific camera, the salesman would bring him over to Arthur to learn about the ease of use and special features. Arthur was often able to make today’s high-tech cameras less threatening to the customer, and sales often resulted.
But Arthur’s family and expenses were growing faster than his salary, so he decided to try something else. A short stint at a frum-owned financial-services company proved conclusively that Arthur was not a future Rothschild, so he again found himself on the job search trail. That’s when he heard about Pathways to Parnassa.
In our first session, Arthur clearly described a skill that he could use very well, that he enjoyed using, and that lent itself to a job description that he could investigate. That was being the “translator,” the person in between a technological tool and its potential user. As more and more things can be done with software, apps, websites, and gadgets, more and more non-technical people want to use these amazing tools. But these tools are created by engineers who often, shall we say, lack the outlook of the common man. Arthur has the ability to understand the concerns of an eager but unsophisticated customer, anticipating problems that would arise in using the technology, and suggest ways to prevent the problem before the customer ever confronts it. He demonstrated that skill when he made complicated cameras less scary, and he felt confident that he could apply that skill in other settings.
The next step in a job hunt is to identify work settings where that skill is critical, and then do research to learn as much as possible about every aspect of the job. If the skills, talents, and goals are a good match, it’s a job worth pursuing. But in this case, there was something else to investigate. There is an emerging field known as “UX,” user experience. Software companies know that their customers are often frustrated by the technological marvels that are supposed to make their lives easier, but don’t. So they turn to UX experts to make their offerings user friendly.
The unique point that made this an opportunity for Arthur is that training in the UX field is available in short, highly focused courses, lasting from one day to several weeks. These courses are given by, among others, an organization based in Manhattan called General Assembly, or GA. They offer introductory sessions every few weeks, and Arthur signed up.
The results were electric. Arthur found that the concepts made sense to him, and he was soon talking to executives in the field about ideas, approaches, and solutions. They were impressed with Arthur’s confidence and articulate manner, and they found his unusual background (Lakewood and Mir) refreshing. Arthur was beginning to see a future where his talents and skills could be used in a new and different way.
The key to job hunting is to become part of the conversation with people who do the work you want to do. Arthur spoke to software designers, UX people, and anyone he could find who was bringing technology into their business. One of the latter kind introduced him to a software company executive whose business seemed to be growing.
The first meeting was a disaster. There were interruptions, followed by delays, and finally the meeting broke off with only a vague promise to speak again soon. Arthur called me, obviously upset. But I sensed an opportunity. I advised Arthur to prepare for his next meeting, whenever it would be, by creating a proposal for his own job. That’s right. Instead of waiting for an employer to figure things out, a great job hunter comes in with a description of what he’s ready to do, and why he’s the best person to do it.
Arthur took that idea and the next day sent me a 25-slide PowerPoint presentation explaining how he would fix the company website, plus a list of six other things he was ready to do to improve the customer’s first experience with this company. A day later, Arthur had a second meeting, and a day after that, a job offer.
In a tough economy, there are still many jobs that need to be filled. And many more that can be created when someone takes the initiative to show the vision which is uniquely his. v
Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.