Are you are looking for work? With constant news of high unemployment it's easy to feel a bit frustrated and demoralized, especially if you've been out of work for a while, but maybe you're going about it the wrong way. If you're looking for technical hands on work, you are uniquely positioned to do something many other job seekers can't, you can literally show potential employers or customers what you can do by showing them what you've done with a portfolio of your past projects.
Do any of these statements apply to you?
- You have no prior employment or all you’ve had are temporary, entry level jobs
- You want a job unrelated to your previous work experience, you’re changing careers
- You can’t find anyone advertising for the work you can do or want to do
- You received no response to hundreds of resumes
- You're older and need to prove you’re still on your game and able to do first rate work
Even with the economy in slow mode, there’s always room for someone who’s really good. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting out or starting over, fresh out of school or fresh out of a job, the best way to convey how much you know or how good you are is with a great example of your best work, or maybe two or three examples. If you’re a hands on guy, like many of you are, if you have a project you’re especially proud of, you have the best advertisement possible for the kind of work you do, and whether you’re looking for an employer or some customers for a new business, show them what you’ve already done.
The age old resume is getting to be just that, old. If you don’t write for a living, but you can build or weld or fabricate with the best, then submit some photos of something you’ve done. Choose a good example and send it in. A writer submits examples of his best writing, a photographer, his best photos, a portfolio of what they’ve done in the past. Do you think it’s more convincing to hear someone say, “Hey, I’m really good,” or would you rather see what they’ve done? Show them a portfolio of your past projects.
Ask any employer what he finds most difficult and the common answer is “finding good people.” With high unemployment, it should be easy to find loads of qualified applicants, but what usually happens is companies get lots of resumes from people with no related experience or any accomplishments they can prove, they just want a job, any job, even if it would make no sense for that company to hire them. If you truly have experience and provable accomplishments, you can jump to the head of the line, even if you don’t write like a pro. Resumes are always filled with glowing superlatives, and occasionally one or two might be true, but it’s a lot better if the employer looks at your portfolio of projects and adds his own superlatives, “Wow, this guy does excellent work!”
Resumes frequently have a list of projects the applicant worked on as part of a team and the obvious question is how much this person had to do with the result. If you are strong in a particular skill, create your own project and show it to advantage.
The responsibility is on the shoulders of the applicant to prove his value in some way. You often hear the question, "How can I apply for a job that demands experience when no one will hire me so I can get the experience in the first place?" The answer is, you don't need anyone else to give you experience, provide your own. The word "experience" is something employers use to find people with skills, they figure if you did it for someone else, you know how to do it and you can do it for them. What they really want is skill, know how, some proof you can actually do the work. OK, so prove it. If you don't know how, learn. A piece of paper with fancy lettering, lots of Latin and your name on it proves nothing. A project you are solely responsible for with photos, video and a full description, perhaps on a website that details how you did it, is much better.
Of course, there’s a catch, there always is. You actually have to know how to do something and have a documented project that proves it. You can try to fake it, but the lack of confidence will show through so why bother? If you really can do it, your confidence will put you at ease along with the potential employer or customer you’re trying to impress.
Look at the projects we’ve featured on The Kneeslider over the years. If you were looking for highly skilled machinists or welders, or maybe someone with hands on skills and the determination to see a project through to the end, those custom builds or restorations would outshine any resume. If you were looking for work and sent in some photos or pointed to a website like The Kneeslider where your work was featured and said, “Look here and see what I can do,” the photos and words would quite clearly show what words alone could never convey.
Consider Aniket's Musket and the engine he designed and built, including creating patterns and casting the cases, there's a portfolio project that will open many doors. How about Maarten Janssens, a 20 year old student who designed and built his own 250cc racer. There's John Tangerås and the T900 project and so many more, but you don't need one on the scale of these, either. Just focus on what you've done and document it.
Sure, I know what you’re saying, why bother, no one’s hiring until the economy improves. Well, here’s a little secret, businesses are always looking for excellence and are always hiring. Always. Many employers right now, will immediately hire someone with the right skills even if they’re not looking through the normal channels, even if they think they’re not looking at all. Anyone who can produce more profit for an employer than he is being paid can get a job anytime, even in the slowest economy, even in the worst recession, that’s simple economics. It’s like offering someone five dollar bills at four dollars each. They will buy as many as you have.
We talk a lot here about doing and practicing and we constantly show you projects many builders have completed, often learning the necessary skills along the way. If you have a great well documented story like one of those, to show an employer, they see not only the skills, but the can-do attitude, the persistence and determination, the ability to set, pursue and reach a goal. Compared to a dull resume filled with fluff and certificates that may mean nothing, these projects stand out.
If you're older, you should already have some examples you can point to, or at least the skills to be able to create some, and if you're young, your primary goal should be to get one started if you haven't completed one yet.
Students just starting out should be thinking about this early in their studies. If a student finishes college with nothing more than debt and a piece of paper, he's got a problem. If during all of that time, he completed nothing he can proudly show as an example of his best efforts, if he has no valuable skill he can demonstrate on demand, I hope he enjoyed all of the parties. Students like that may get angry when no one will hire them, when what they should feel is a sense of urgency to begin doing something to prove what they've learned can create something of value. The students, if they really think about it, may stumble into the realization they can't actually do much except pass tests. It's their responsibility to prove their value.
Today, it's imperative, whether your career path is employment by others or running your own business, working with your hands or your head, self taught or college educated, you need a portfolio of what you've done. It's your own responsibility, no one else is going to do it for you. Too many people only think about accomplishments when they're out of work and trying to write a resume. You should think about it all the time, what is it you're doing? What are you accomplishing with all of those hours you put in every day? If your employer or your own business went belly up tomorrow, what would you point to as an example of the work you've done? Create that portfolio of projects. It will help keep you on track each day and will give you the confidence you need to move on to something else if the need arises. It's nice to look at once in a while, too, just to make you feel proud. Whether for yourself or showing it to potential employers or customers, it's a powerful statement when you can say, "I did that!"