Job Seekers Getting Attention: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Source: evo_terra (Flickr)

Source: evo_terra (Flickr)

I recently came across, a blog by Philadelphia-based headhunter Rich DeMatteo. Helping job seekers with good advice is important to Rich, as it is to me, and I enjoyed visiting Rich’s blog. Rich just posted on a topic that was on my on-deck circle: job candidates “thinking outside the box” to gain attention. There are definitely many job seekers acting “outside the box”…but I’m not so sure these folks were “thinking.”

The Boston Globe did a very good piece on “outside the box” (more like “beyond the pale,” unfortunately) job seekers making spectacles of themselves, including, among others, Pasha Stocking of Connecticut who blew $2,500 for her “HIRE ME!” billboard that earned the “odd news” type of national media attention…but no job opportunities.

Since that Globe article, others have joined this group of job hunters gaining attention, but not the “good” kind of attention that will land them a job. Chances are you have heard of one Trina Thompson, who has sued the college she graduated from seven short months ago because she remains unemployed. Now we can all agree this is the worst public spectacle attention a job candidate can get. Rich gives Thompson a well deserved dressing-down along with some good common-sense advice that Trina Thompson should have done already (join LinkedIn, look into a resume writing professional, etc.). The Onion sums up Thompson’s hapless lawsuit with suitable irreverence. Litigious mediocrity is not a good personal brand to embrace, Trina…

But Rich DeMatteo and I have agreed to disagree on the virtue of an “outside the box” tactic by Sean Christman, a recent La Salle graduate.

Rich wrote: “On Wednesday, July 22, Sean found himself wearing his finest suit, standing on the median of a busy Philadelphia street (presumingly during rush hour), holding copies of his resume for passing cars.” Rich gave Sean a “brilliant” thumbs up for his gambit and vowed to connect with Sean Christman for an interview. I can certainly understand Rich going to bat for a fellow Philly kid trying to hustle up something – anything – even if it’s randomly passing out his resume to passing motorists.

I suggest Sean’s tactic actually falls more into the category of “inside the box” job searching than it does an “outside the box” negative attention-grab (but I think it was that too).  Sean’s tactic is basically just a more public, visible version of a conventional wisdom, “inside the box” job search: Send your resume to every company and online job board possible. There are, unfortunately, scores of frustrating job seeker stories that begin with “Joe/JoAnne sent hundreds of resumes to employers and job boards, without one response…” As posted elsewhere here, wide distribution of resumes is not a job search strategy – it’s tanamount to buying lottery tickets; and the days of sending out 100 resumes to get seven of them turning into interviews and one job offer simply doesn’t work anymore.

If passing out resumes, be it via email to company websites and job boards en masse, or given to strangers driving by on a busy street, is an “inside the box” job search, and resorting to spectacle “outside the box” tactics will give you attention, but not the kind that will help get a job, what’s left?  I suggest the answer lies in building a better box.

As an example, I would like to point to fellow Bentley University alum Jayna Dinsmore, whose job search after a major company layoff 10 months ago has taken her on a round trip that has happily culminated in a new job.

Jayna tried to “build a better box” through asserting herself as an expert in the effective use of social media for business. Jayna launched a blog on the subject, Little Miss Social Media, in tandem with active networking efforts, including co-founding the Bentley Success Network (which is how I met Jayna).

Jayna also offered her marketing services to the New England Job Show, a new experiment in which job seekers shoot an ePitch, or a 30 second video of their elevator pitch, at a Chelmsford, Mass. local cable TV access studio.  The ePitches were then featured with the other segments in the show and distributed throughout several towns and cities in MA & NH, Comcast OnDemand and online on YouTube and their blog. Now Jayna, as Social Media Integrator, and the founders of New England Job Show did get substantial media coverage, including interviews by Associated Press, the Boston Globe and others, and even a live Fox & Friends interview. However, none of that media attention was of the variety that might translate into any job opportunity.

What didhelp Jayna finally hit paydirt was leading a free seminar to Bentley Alumni: a hands-on intro to using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. A fellow Bentley alum and former colleague of Jayna’s saw that she was teaching an intro to social media class and got in touch with her to discuss launching his social media offering…resulting in a job offer. Best of all, Jayna tells me the job she accepted is her ideal job; “the one that I envisioned as being an ideal fit for me long before I knew this opportunity ever existed.” Well done, Jayna!

Bottom line, there is good, bad and ugly attention job seekers can draw to themselves. The “bad” or even “ugly” attention might get you your 15 minutes of fame (infamy?) on TV but that’s about it. “People say, ‘Hey, you’re famous [for your ‘HIRE ME!’ billboard],’ Pasha Stocking told the Globe. “Yeah, I’m famous. I’m famously unemployed.”

The “good” kind of attention is the kind that earns you recognition as an authority, an expert, a go-to person in your field. Networking, blogging, presenting, personal branding, “doing the job in your interview“…will earn you that “good” attention.

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6 thoughts on “Job Seekers Getting Attention: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  1. Hi Mike – Wonderful article. I’ve made contact with Mr. Christman and plan to set up an interview in the next couple weeks. I’m interested to see exactly what happened that day.

    I also enjoyed reading Jayna’s story. Unemployment is a time to reinvent oneself. Well, maybe not reinvent, but definitely improve. While bettering oneself, people need to relax and have as much fun as possible before landing the next job.

    Look forward to more of your posts!

  2. Great article Mike! It is interesting, there are creative ways to go about getting attention as a job seeker that are not negative (oops, a double negative!)

    I’ve been watching, with some interest, this teacher who put together a binder of all his qualifications – resume, lesson plans, even a video. I think it is this type of creative use of social media that will get the attention of employers. Here is his binder:

  3. You know I can appreciate people that have their own opinions about the way they choose to seek employment but then I have asked myself this question countless times……Why are people so [angry] about the way I chose to look for employment? I don’t get it really. Who cares how I did it. Also this experience has been wonderful for me and although it didn’t land me the exact job I wanted, I realized that I needed to create my own job and have since started my own business if you must know. I don’t have anything negative to say about this article because as I said before people have the right to their opinion and I in fact put myself out there in a way to be talked about. Fame???? Not what I was looking for at all trust me, if I wanted it I could have had it by now but that is not what interests me. My main goal is to support my family and yes to get away from the everyday boring resume! Resumes [are awful]! The bottom line and you should hear the stories I have been told about HR and how they handle resumes now. I wanted to have some fun because I am a fun down to earth person so if that is a crime and everyone feels so compelled to [berate] me then so be it.

  4. Hi Pasha. First, I and I’m sure all my readers, far from being angry, are sorry you spent $2,500 (not a trivial amount of money) for a billboard that did get attention but did not help you get a job. That was one point from the blog posting. The main point was there are ways in which a job candidate can get “good” attention that helps their job search by publicly asserting themselves as experts in their field. That includes blogging about your chosen field(s) of expertise; networking in professional associations for your chosen profession and industry and online using LinkedIn; speaking publicly on work related topics whenever possible; presenting yourself using the New England Job Show (I think you’re in CT), and more. And some candidates are doing things that will attract generic “attention” from the general public and media, but those things will not help get you a job and in some cases might even hurt some candidates in the long run. I hope your business works out well.

  5. Hello Mike. I have to tell you that before resorting to a billboard (that I knew might be a risk but I am a risk taker sometimes) I was and continue to be on every social media platform that I thought/think would benefit my cause,even setting up a youtube channel about branding for women who want to start their own cosmetics line which I am an expert in. I attended countless job fairs, temp agencies,volunteering, etc; You name it I did it.I did all the traditional things I was supposed to do. I do believe that the whole thing was very novel to some and people seemed more intrigued by the story than actually hiring me but what people need to understand is that I was totally prepared for what may or may not come.It was not supposed to be some big witch hunt for people to say “Good she didn’t get a job, that’s what she gets!” What is that? As much as what I did angered people, it also inspired people to think differently about finding employment, maybe not putting up a billboard but other creative ways. I don’t regret what I did one bit and if I could do it over again, the only thing I would change is my shirt….LOL!!!! Listen, the bottom line is that I am a positive open minded person that is not afraid to take a good ol’fashion risk sometimes. My kids are happy and we have our health and that is all that matters to me at this point. I could care less about the billboard the publicity, fame, whatever. Some people that have been following my journey tend to send me over interesting blog articles that they think I might be interested in reading and that is how I was led to you. I also want you to understand that before I was laid off from my marketing job, I had left a decent management position of 16 years, so I don’t normally go making habits of stirring up “attention” from the general public or media. I do thank you very much for the well wish in regard to my new business, I hope it does well too! Keeping my fingers crossed.


  6. Yeah, I just don’t understand the logic of what Trina Thompson did. Whether she won or not, she was making herself unemployable. Graduate jobs are difficult to come by for anyone, let alone anyone who has proven that they will sue at the drop of a hat.

    I hadn’t heard the billboard story but there was something similar here, a guy wore a sandwich board and wandered up and down one of the busiest streets in London, Oxford Street I think. I’m guessing that would come under your definition of “negative attention” and some of our national newspapers did cover it in that way. But it worked for him, he was not only noticed but also employed as the result of it. So it can work.

    But in general, I think I agree with you. It does tend to attract the negative attention you describe, or is at least considered to be a poor or even desperate technique. Whether or not that is true, I don’t know but if the perception is there, then perhaps it isn’t a wise tactic.

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