Monday, March 19 , 2018, 7:45 am | Fair 41º


Paul Burri: A Better Way to Find a Job

Volunteering within your desired company or industry can help get your foot in the door

I worked for the Walt Disney Co. for five years while it was building Epcot in Florida, and I’d be there yet if it wasn’t for something they said — “You’re terminated.”

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

After I left Disney in October 1983, I was out of work for about nine months. It was a financially and emotionally debilitating part of my life during which I spent most of my time looking for another job. I can appreciate what many people are going through these days.

I say it was emotionally debilitating because it was a sort of a rejection every time I went on an interview and was later told that I hadn’t gotten the job. The message — at least for me — was that I wasn’t wanted, that I wasn’t needed. When this happens over and over again, you find it hard not to feel that way.

During this stressful period, I began to realize that Fridays were particularly unproductive days for a job search. If I was finally lucky enough to speak to the person who had the hiring authority, the message was usually something like, “Why don’t you call me sometime next week and we will set up an appointment?” I eventually concluded that these individuals were more interested in planning their upcoming weekend than in talking to me. Next week was soon enough for them.

From my point of view, it was still another “turn down” and another few days of waiting.

Once I discovered this about my job search, I decided to try doing something productive with my Fridays. I investigated numerous volunteering opportunities and eventually volunteered to work at the Page Museum in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park. (The Page Museum is at the other end of the park from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It is devoted to investigating and cataloging fossils found in the La Brea Tar Pits.)

My job was to try to match up bone fragments from the excavations. It was like trying to do a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, except that you could never be sure you had all the pieces. Although it might sound like a frustrating job, it was actually very interesting and very rewarding when you did find a “fit.” (I found two or three “fits” in the eight months I worked there.)

But much more important were the emotional rewards I got from working there. I felt needed and useful again. I was among people who were dedicated and interesting. I wasn’t home alone worrying about my job search. And I started networking — getting to know people who knew people who knew people. And it got me at least two job interviews that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.

Most companies that need more help look within the company before looking anywhere else (read What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles). That tells me that you have a better chance of getting that job if you’re already inside the company. And that tells me that it might be an idea to volunteer to work for free at your target company or in your target industry.

But that’s just my idea.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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