The typical way to look for a job is to put a resume together and then look at jobs that match your skill set. “You find a pigeonhole that you might fit into,” says author and motivational speaker Jim Donovan. “But after you’ve been doing that for two years and it hasn’t worked out, you might want to do something different.”
According to Donovan, looking for a job the traditional way might be completely backwards. Donovan will speak Friday, July 8, from 9:45 a.m. to noon at the Professional Service Group of Mercer County at the Princeton Public Library at 65 Witherspoon Street. The meeting is free. For more information, visit www.psgofmercercounty.org. The PSG is a networking program for professionals who are in a career transition or looking for jobs.
That’s a subject area that Donovan knows a bit about. He grew up in an Irish family on Staten Island where his father was a trucker and his mother was a homemaker who sometimes worked for K-Mart. From such humble beginnings, he became a video tape editor in the early days of TV news, and soon moved into producing corporate videos. With his talent for working with videotape, Donovan says he quickly rose to the top of his profession and was enjoying a high-end lifestlye. “My ego ran wild,” he said.
Donovan said his high-flying career fueled an alcohol problem that led him into a downward spiral. “At one point, I lived in a car. I slept in Battery Park, something I do not recommend, and SROs (single room occupancies) in Manhattan and the Bronx. These are places where you live in a small room and share a bathroom with several strangers. Quite interesting,” he writes on his website, www.jimdonovan.com.
Donovan’s story is of the rags-to-riches-to-rags-back-to-riches variety. He joined a 12-step program, kicked his drinking habit, and re-launched his career down a different path. At his low point, Donovan turned to self-help books to figure out how to get back on his feet, but soon discovered that he could make a career out of speaking and writing himself. He says he has sold about half a million copies so far of books like “Happy@Work,” “Handbook to a Happier Life,” and “What Are You Waiting For? It’s Your Life,” which have been translated into Japanese and other languages.
He also lectures and makes educational videos. It’s not a single job, but rather a sequence of endeavors that adds up to a career that he enjoys. Donovan advises the same approach to professionals who may have good qualifications and a long career behind them, but who are having a hard time getting hired by a different company on the same level they were before.
“That’s what rainmakers do,” he said. “They put stuff together. They look around ,get creative, and apply initiative.”
Donovan said many people have been held back by a “drone mindset” that prevents them from finding work they enjoy.” Donovan said that instead of trying to fit their skillset into job postings, job seekers should start on the other end: start with what makes you happy and figure out how to do it for a living. “Concentrate on being happy and success falls into place,” he said.
That career may not end up being a job, he said, especially for experienced professionals who are looking for work at high salaries. An individual company may not be able to hire someone who was vice president of marketing for a major corporation. However, there may be dozens of companies that could hire that person for one day a week. “So you become a consultant and divide your skills among those four clients,” Donovan said. “People don’t want a job. They want income.”
The idea that putting together a patchwork of jobs, each without benefits, can replace a traditional career, is a new economic reality for many younger workers. Tech companies such as car service Uber, which promote the “sharing economy,” have accelerated this trend by offering jobs through work-on-demand apps. But many of the jobs available through gig apps are menial, like driving a car, grocery shopping, or running errands. Donovan said that while anyone can be happy in their work, not everyone can be happy in every job. At a low point in his life, Donovan got a telemarketing job. He quit after four hours even though he needed the money. “I don’t agree with staying somewhere and being mistreated,” he said.
Other times, he had to take low-paying work just to survive, but found ways to make it bearable. “I had all kinds of crappy jobs that I had to do to survive,” he said. “Minimum wage work at stores. I had to make it fun, educational, entertaining, or at least palatable.”
Donovan said that in seeking jobs and clients, sending out resumes should not be the only tactic. He said business networking events are great places to meet contacts, but that most people who go to them already have jobs. “Show up there, pay your 25 bucks, and work the room. It’s better than sitting there at a computer sending out resumes.” (See page 6 for a listing of area business meetings and networking events.)