Career Center Blog

May 13, 2013

The 'subversive' job search: Higher risk, higher reward


Performing a job search has often been compared with doing a high-wire act. You have to put yourself out there and dazzle an audience, but also maintain your composure to look professional. One misstep -- or a perceived falsehood in your demeanor -- can send you tumbling to the ground, sometimes without a net.

Entrepreneur and author Alan Corey knows this balancing act all too well. In his latest book, "The Subversive Job Search," he chronicles both his quick rise as a hot-shot real estate investment tycoon and his precipitous fall to become unemployed and nearly broke during the global financial crisis.

He has climbed back into the corporate world, however, and now earns a six-figure salary by engaging in what he calls "subversive" tactics. These tactics can give you an edge -- providing you're willing to get out of your comfort zone and take some risks. Here are a few irreverent and stealthy tips he offers to get your foot in the (back) door of your favorite company without anyone really noticing.

Make use of the press. As a journalist, I know what it's like to search for a good quote from a legitimate subject-matter expert on deadline. This is a great opportunity for educated job seekers to offer expertise to their peers. Corey mentions the free website Help A Reporter Out, which lists contact information for journalists who are seeking interviews with people in various fields. If you can provide some relevant quotes and develop a rapport with a writer in the trade press, your name will find its way to headhunters and hiring managers.

Offer something useful. Once you identify a potential hiring manager, don't send a resume, ask for a job interview or even mention working for the company. Instead, just mention that you read articles about the company and follow local business trends and would like to share some advice.

Corey suggests some kind of introductory sentence, such as, "I don't believe we've met, but I read this online and I thought you might find it interesting for you and your company." Be sure to add your web address, LinkedIn profile or some other way for them to confirm your credentials. If you're able to develop a dialogue, you can try to set up a meeting for coffee.

Propose your own follow-up schedule. If you get an interview, don't leave the ball in the interviewer's court, Corey says. At the conclusion of the interview, he recommends demonstrating confidence by asking the hiring manager if it's OK to follow up with them on a specific day, preferably four business days after your initial interview. This tactic "not only pegs you as a go-getter, but makes your follow-up much easier, as it is now anticipated," he writes. He also advises that you mention that you have other interviews scheduled, even if you really don't, to give the impression that you're in demand.

Corey has some good advice in "The Subversive Job Search," but there are some bits that could backfire. For example, one of his tips is to join other like-minded job seekers, set up a table in a heavily trafficked area outside the headquarters of a targeted company and begin offering a range of free services (lemonade stand, car wash, bake sale, pet service, etc.) for passers-by in exchange for taking a copy of your resume.

I suppose the idea is to build familiarity and demonstrate your "creative hustle." To me, though, this sounds like unprofessional and annoying behavior. I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of stunt resulted in a call to the police for disturbing the peace and/or running a business without a license.

Missteps like this aside, most of the book contains actionable advice about making yourself indispensable and offers plenty of revealing personal anecdotes about how to make yourself known among the hiring managers of a company. Just try not to be too much of a noodge, though, or you may lose your footing.

Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

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Truly awesome tips! Thanks for sharing them, I will be using them on my next interviews. :)

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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