The economy continues on a path of mediocrity, the stock markets present almost daily doses of whiplash to investors, and just this week the U.S. Census Bureau released a report on poverty in the United States (hint: it’s increasing). If you or someone you know is unemployed or under-employed, it’s time to evaluate every income producing option available – even those options that are less than ideal.
I’ve worked for well over 100 employers (no, that’s not a typo or an exaggeration). I know a few things about finding a job, and quickly, when the chips are down. So if the landlord is banging on your door, your car is running on fumes, or you just need to pay for a decent sandwich – then I’m your own, personal “expert” at finding work in a hurry. Read on…
Swallow your pride and do something “beneath” your abilities.
This is no time to think that “you’re too good” for whatever it is that you don’t want to do. Here’s one trick to use when searching for so-called “low status” jobs: try looking for work in towns located some distance from your normal “stomping grounds”. This way, people you know won’t find out that you’re delivering pizzas or working at McDonald’s (the ones that they might patronize, that is.)
No matter how rotten the economy is, the same industries always seem to be seeking workers. Many businesses involved in the retail, restaurant, seasonal, leisure, agriculture, and trucking industries are always hiring. And don’t forget call centers, also. (By the way, if you decide to look for work at a call center, try to grab a position that involves “inbound” vs. “outbound” calls. “Outbound” means: you’ll be cold calling people just as they sit down for dinner. Not fun.) Remember: a little “hard time” at the crummiest greasy spoon in town may well help you get a management position at a respectable nightclub in the future.
This one really isn’t bad, and probably gets a worse rap than it deserves. To get paid to deliver a major staple of the American diet, you’ll need three things: wheels that you don’t mind putting some mileage on, a reasonably decent driving record, and insurance. Don’t bother with this type of gig if any one of these is missing. You’ll get tips, which means you’ll have cash – always.
You can work whatever schedule is convenient for you (though, obviously, weekends will be more lucrative). Bad weather means better tips. You can listen to whatever you want on the radio, and pull over and use the cell phone at your convenience. Bonus benefit: free food! And, if you’re single: you’ll certainly encounter cute members of the opposite sex, either co-workers or customers.
Start a hauling and/or moving business
I did this once – and wound up with a business that lasted over two years. There are now national franchises that are making millions from hauling away junk from homes, garages, and storage units. If you have a pickup truck and/or trailer, a cell phone, work gloves, and a willingness to get paid to excercise – you can be in the hauling business. When I ran a junk hauling business, I used local weekly small-town newspapers to advertise.
Running classified ads in these types of papers is pretty cheap, and they always yield at least a handful of phone calls. You can use online classifieds like Craigslist, of course – but so is your competition. Besides, many homeowners don’t bother calling service businesses listed in Craigslist because they don’t trust those businesses, or take them seriously.
Play the numbers game
It’s obvious that you should be using the web to look for work. But try the old school method of “pounding the pavement” – since so few others do this these days. Find the area near you where the half-dozen (every town has this area) fast-food joints are located near one another.
Or go visit your local mall. Grab applications at each store, take them home, then fill them out (it’s a more laborious process than you think – do it at home, trust me). Then return those completed applications in person. Try to hand your application over to the store manager on duty. This will leave an impression on that particular manager that you’ll never be able to deliver via cyberspace. You may even receive an interview on the spot – I’ve had this happen to me several times when the business in question needed workers immediately.
Get a commercial driver’s license
This idea only applies if you have a decent driving record, no felonies, and you’re single. If you aren’t single, you soon will be – if you go OTR (trucker parlance for “over the road”). You’ll be away from home for weeks. In fact, some drivers don’t bother having homes and instead live out of their trucks. Which, actually, will save you huge amounts of money – but cost your social life dearly.
Now, you can also drive “local”, but these driving gigs are far more difficult to get, especially for newer drivers. Most local driving gigs involve 10-12 hour days anyway, so even these will greatly impact your non-working life. I’ve worked mostly local gigs, and made great money doing them. But, I like my downtime. A LOT. Which is why even the most lucrative local driving gig, for me, only lasted three years. (However – I paid off huge debts during that period.) Having a “CDL” means you’ll always have work (if you want it).
Use temp firms
Yes, there is a lot not to like about temp firms. Most treat applicants like ten-year-olds, take a cut of your hourly pay, and will waste a lot of your time before sending you to a gig. Temp firms tend to want you at their office, in person, so that they can run you through a battery of tests to prove you aren’t a complete moron. Ironic, since many temp staffers are. (I’m not a fan of temp firms, in case you didn’t notice.) On the other hand, maybe you don’t care, since you need cash immediately.
Let’s face it – in any economy, the temp firms usually have something (anything!) Don’t kid yourself, though – many temp firms are trying to fill lousy gigs with warm bodies – the kinds of gigs that in-house H.R. departments gave up trying to fill. Some firms, of course, are worse than others. The worst part about applying for work via a temp firm is watching the dummy videos that nearly every temp agency forces prospective employees to watch. Painful.
Volunteer, or work for free
If money isn’t really that pressing, and/or you’re fortunate to have a side income or partner who brings home the bacon, then thank your lucky stars. Go visit a volunteer website and offer your time to someone less fortunate (there is always someone less fortunate than you.) Find a cause you can get into and help out. Even a couple hours a month is welcome. You can also work for free (Different from volunteering; I’m talking here about donating free work to a for-profit organization.)
I’ve noticed that sometimes “experts” on job hunting will occasionally suggest that you work for free. This may (“experts” claim) lead to a paying gig. I suppose that might be the case, sometimes. I doubt it, though. I’ve worked for “free” as a freelancer on several occasions. Not once did doing so get me paid work. I don’t recommend doing this, but it’s an idea worth including here.
Some job hunting sites are better than others
I have had good luck finding full-time and part-time work through classified sites like Craigslist and Backpage.com; not so much with the larger job-related “megasites” like Monster.com or CareerBuilder. The latter two sites are overloaded with listings from recruiters, who will waste your time more effectively than actually find you paid work.
The former two sites, however, are filled with job listings from employers looking for help and who need to hire quickly. Beware of scams, however – especially with Craigslist. Never send a prospective employer your Social Security number via e-mail or via an online job application until you are sure of who you’re dealing with. That said, there are far more legitimate job opportunities on the online classified sites than scams – just be careful. If a job opening sounds to good to be true, it’s likely a scam.
Just because you’re a college graduate (and especially if you aren’t) doesn’t mean a good job is your birthright. Quit expecting your “dream job” to fall out of the sky, and look for work beyond “your field” (do people still use this phrase?) Your field is wherever the work is, right now. A paycheck derived from driving a taxi is better than no paycheck at all.
(This has been a guest post by Matt Henterly, a developer of The BuckTrak Budget Planner, a free online financial manager for individuals and small businesses.)