For many people, it’s not easy finding a job these days. Ensuring that your resume is up to date and that you have a well written cover page is very important. Still, there are often many candidates competing for that one position. To increase your chances of success, you need to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack. The same is true for companies who are having a hard time finding new business. They need to leverage their existing client base and find new ways to provide products and services.
I offer the following to get you thinking about how you might create your own opportunities. Whether you are looking for a job, employed by a company that needs more work, or the owner of a company that needs more business, the concepts presented here can help you get there.
In 1988, I was looking for a job but very few companies were hiring. Laptop computers were just beginning to get attention in the computer market. While not many were being sold yet, they had evolved to a place where they were being considered as an alternative to the standard desktop computer. Three major global companies led the way with innovative products.
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and is situated on Vancouver Island. The majority of public sector purchasing decisions are made in this city which is a ferry ride or short plane trip from the mainland. I had developed some very good relationships within that space so I decided to call some of my contacts and ask them the following questions:
• What are your thoughts about this new technology?
• Have you begun purchasing laptops?
• Which of the 3 major manufactures do you prefer?
• Is there anything they could do to get more of your business?
The answers were pretty interesting. By and large, they all thought the emerging technology had enormous potential and were beginning to purchase a few laptops. The purchases were split evenly between the three manufacturers. They felt that if one of them had a local presence and would demonstrate the new products on a regular basis they would likely gravitate towards that manufacturer.
I called a few of my friends in the computer industry to find out who the national sales managers were for the 3 companies. I was given referrals to two of them and contact information for the third. Armed with this information, I called the first company on the list.
Speaking directly to their VP of Sales for Canada, I introduced myself and gave him a bit of my background. I made sure he understood that I was well referenced and had a good reputation in my part of the world. I explained what I had discovered in conversation with my clients. I then pitched him the idea that if his company created a position for me and provided products to demonstrate, they could own the lion’s share of this market. He responded by telling me that he appreciated my initiative but that his company was sticking to their strategy. I politely suggested that he should perhaps revisit this strategy in light of what he had just learned. He re-iterated his position. I thanked him for his time and told him that I was going to call the next manufacturer on my list. He chuckled, wished me luck and finished again by telling me he thought I had shown a lot of initiative.
I called the next manufacturer and spoke with their General Manager. I pitched the idea and also told him I had spoken to one of his competitors. Within a week I was flown to Toronto. Two weeks later I was sitting in an office with product and actively engaging the local market. A year later, we had 80% market share and I was back in Toronto attending a sales conference. The General Manager walked up to the microphone and said it was time to announce this year’s National Account Executive of the Year. He then said “This year’s winner is the only person I have ever hired who told ME that I needed to create a position for him”. I almost fell out of my chair! I had good friends in that room who are professional, competent, well respected and accomplished business people. The highlight for me was when they all walked over to shake my hand. It was a very humbling experience to be congratulated by people I held in such high esteem and is a moment I will never forget.
While this all took place in the computer industry, you can apply the thinking to whatever marketplace you may be in. As well, it does not need to be about creating a new job. It could be about creating a new initiative within the company you work for or manage.
Consider the following ideas as food for thought and a place to start:
- Take some time to give ample thought about where your market is going. What are the new trends? What are the new products and/or emerging service delivery needs? In other words, what will the market need tomorrow that you or your company should start positioning for today?
- Stay Positive. When you are working with a positive mindset, you are thinking about what you CAN do. When you are negative, it’s all about what you can’t do. People pick up on this. Stay positive!
- Networking is a key ingredient. Interacting with your contacts keeps you active and plugged in. In my experience, the best opportunities always come from being “in the know”. With the economy the way it is, many companies are cutting back. Often, because of knee jerk reactions, they will over-cut. By doing so, they inadvertently compromise their ability to service their own requirements or their clients needs. For you, this represents opportunity. Staying in touch with your clients and business contacts can open doors for you to provide those services.
- In a down market, smart companies are always willing to entertain new ideas. Their boardrooms are busy with meetings aimed at finding new business, driving efficiencies or looking for ways to capitalize on their competitions weaknesses. This is a GREAT time to be pitching them ideas that increase revenues or reduce their cost of doing business.
- Showing initiative is always a good thing. Even if no immediate work comes from it, you will have demonstrated your resourcefulness and an enterprising spirit, things that put you in a good light. Moreover, you will have been productively engaging your mind in a positive way. You’ll feel good about yourself and only good can come from this.
- In my geography, most major companies base their sales teams in Vancouver and send a rep over to Victoria once or twice a month for a day trip. I have always felt that this is an enormous strategic error. In my opinion, constant presence is vital to ones success in any given market. This doesn’t just happen in Victoria. It could be happening in your own city. If so, regardless of the industry, you may have a great opportunity to create a position for yourself.
One last point. Sometimes when trying to solve a problem, we are asking the wrong question. For example, if you consider all you just read, my question back then was not really how do I find a job but rather where can I find a job. In this case, where included geography and industry. Once I knew the where, the how fell into place.
Stay positive, be creative, think outside of the box and look for opportunities where your unique skills can be married to emerging needs. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain!
Image From – The Microsoft Office Clip Art Collection
First posted on March 5th, 2009 at synaptici