Looking for WORK instead of a JOB ...


A site that I’ve been active on for a few years is LibraryThing.com, and they have a feature where publishers can offer review copies to members, these being doled out depending on how they fit with one’s library on the site.  In the October batch of this “Early Reviewer” program, I got a copy of Ron McGowan’s How to Find Work in the 21st Century, the review of which I just posted yesterday on my book review blog site.

Mr. McGowan has a rather dire view of the changing economy, and has written a book which focuses on the “job seeker” looking more at being an independent contractor and looking for work that fits one’s skill sets.  It is something of a “survival manual” for what he sees as a total evolution in the job market, away from stable employment and into a more fluid situation of assignment-by-assignment contracting for work.  I was fortunate to be able to get him to agree to do an email interview last week, so I have this to pass along to you today.

Q: Briefly, what’s your background?

A: My career has been in three parts: At BCIT, one of Canada’s largest post secondary institutes, on the faculty and as an administrator.  In sales and marketing; selling computer and telecommunications services and equipment.  In self-employment, helping graduates and skilled/professional people to understand today’s workplace and how to succeed in it.

Q: Have you had notable job-transition experiences?

A:  I’ve been downsized three times. I’ve successfully made the transition from a corporate career into self-employment. The first time I was downsized, I was with a national, Canadian telecommunications company.  I was number one in Canada in the category I was in. The company was taken over by a multinational and my job was eliminated, which taught me that there is little job security in today’s workplace.

Q: Why did you decide to write a job-search book?

A: When I first went out on my own, I operated a company called “Executives For Rent” for six years. I was a recruiter who found contract work for managers and professionals. For the past eight years I’ve helped thousands of graduates and professionals across Canada and in Ireland and Scotland with my seminar “How To Find Work”.  From both of these experiences, it was obvious to me that most people don’t understand today’s workplace and need help to succeed in it.

Q: How do you see the job market in the next 3-6 months?

A: More of the same; and I see no major difference between Canada and the US. For the longer term, see the comment from Kenneth S. Rogoff on page 152 of my book. In looking at his comments and those of other informed people, I believe we’re in for a bad decade.

Q:  If you had just ONE piece of advice for today’s job searcher, what would that be?

A: Focus on finding WORK, not a JOB. Many employment seekers are fixated on finding a traditional job with all the benefits that we have come to expect go with it. By doing this, they’re making it hard for employers, especially small businesses where most of the opportunities are, to hire them. Like it or not, they must be willing to take on part-time, temporary, or contract work – without reservations. And some of them will have to create their own job. That’s the reality of today’s and tomorrow’s workplace.

Q: What do you feel makes your book unique?

A: It is based on experience; my own and that of all the graduates and professionals I’ve interacted with over the past eight years. Having been downsized three times, I know exactly what graduates and downsized professionals are facing. I make my living in the workplace they’re heading into.  I spend a lot of time educating people about marketing, selling and networking. Unless people understand and become proficient in these areas, they’ll never make it in today’s workplace.

Q: Aside from your book, what resources do you recommend?

A: I like Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind”. I think it’s an excellent commentary on today’s workplace and what we have to do to succeed in the future.

Q: Any additional words of wisdom?

A: The era of the traditional job is over for a growing number of our society. This has huge implications considering that for over a century, the economic foundation for most people has been a steady job, with all of the benefits we’ve assumed come with it. In California, only about 30% of the workforce, have traditional jobs, according to a study by the University of San Francisco. That’s were we’re all headed – and we’re not ready for it.

Our colleges and universities are doing a poor job of preparing graduates for today’s workplace. Acquiring self-marketing skills must be a part of the educational process. This can only be changed from the outside given how slow these institutions are to react to the changes going on in today’s workplace. The biggest weakness in the post-secondary education sector in all countries is the lack of experience in today’s workplace by those who are responsible for education policy, funding, administration and delivery.

Unemployed skilled and professional people are not getting the help they need. Our society still thinks these people have it made, as they did in the 20th century.

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