How To Land That Gig, Even In This Economy

September 11, 2013  |  


While the August jobs report showed the economy added 169,000 jobs, Washington Post financial reporters Ylan Q. Mui and Amrita Jayakumar say the resulting dip in the unemployment rate is deceptive. “[O]nly 63.2 percent of working-age Americans have a job or are looking for one, the lowest proportion since 1978,” the pair point out. “Nearly 90 million people are now considered out of the labor force, up 1.7 million from August 2012,” they added.

For the unemployed who haven’t stopped looking and those desperate to transition from their current situation, the question is: How did those 169,000 people get a job offer last month?

Delanie West was one of the 169,000. The designer and creative director of consumer products has led creative teams at Black Girls RUN! and iHome, and was VP/Creative Director at craft industry giant EK Success/Wilton Brands for 14 ½ years. Her sterling resume notwithstanding, West marshaled every skill, and skilled friend she had, not to mention good old LinkedIn to snag the position of Vice-President, Product Development/Creativity Center at Faber-Castell, the 252-year-old company best known for its yellow No. 2 pencils.

Delanie shared the tips and tools that worked for her:

1. Get Active on LinkedIn

“I have a friend in my family who is one of the top HR people in the world, and he mentioned that if people spent as much time on LinkedIn as they did on Facebook, [they would get a job that much quicker],” West revealed. So when West, then Creative Director at Black Girls RUN!, knew she wanted to return to creative consumer products, she tightened up her profile on the professional networking site and started joining groups, following influencers, and soliciting recommendations.

2. You have to brand yourself.

“To do what you need to do to build your career, you have to brand yourself,” West says. For people who aren’t in marketing, it can be hard to understand what “brand yourself” actually, and practically, means. For West, it comes down to creating the impression you want your potential boss to have, and it’s easier than you think. Since Google can only surface what’s out there about you, take the initiative to feed it with content you want employers to have about you. To do this, West created a website which features her resume, portfolio, and a blog she regularly updates. West says the work paid off. “[Interviewers] would Google me and they would find what I planted,” she said.

3. Barter services and share information.

If you don’t have the skill set to create a personal website for example, seek out friends or people in your network who can help and offer to trade a service you can do for them. “That’s how I was able to do [my website] at low or no cost,” West says.

4. Manage your reputation.

If you’re ready to leave your current job, don’t check out before you’ve received another offer. Stay committed to doing stellar work, and cultivate a reputation for being easy to work with, West advises. “Managers change and company ownership changes and you have to work with [it],” West says. “You can’t be the person that resists change.”

5. Leverage Your Side Hustle.

If you’re between gigs and/or have a passion project outside of your job, promote the aspects of the project that highlight your skill set. West runs Delanie West Design, but she cautions: Don’t let your side hustle interfere with your ability to perform the job that pays your bills.

6. Pay it forward.

“There wasn’t anybody of color for me to follow in the creative consumer products world so I feel a responsibility,” West says to share the knowledge she has acquired throughout the course of her career. “It’s about the bottom line. If you’re generating income for the company, they don’t care what color you are.”

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the novel Powder Necklace and founder of the blog People Who Write. Follow her on Twitter @nanaekua.

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