December 26, 2013

Do NOT Make a Job of Getting a Job

I cannot remember what I told her then, but this is what I can tell you now:

A lot of people say that when you are unemployed, you should make it your full-time job to find a job. This is really bad advice because it sets you up for a failure loop; you could have had a 30-year track record of success, and then after a year of unemployment all you can show for your last "job" is dismal failure. You will feel like a failure because, frankly, you have failed. You will project that sense of failure and people won't hire you.

Instead, make it your full-time job to become an even wiser problem solver than you already are. Nobody can stop you from succeeding at this job except for you. Work at it at least eight hours a day. Make sure to solve other people's problems, not your own, because nobody cares if you cleaned out your garage and finished your basement. However, they will take notice if you helped three teams launch businesses at a Startup Weekend, or got your favorite ice cream shop onto the first page of a Google search.

Hunt for Problems, Not for a Job

The way most people go about finding work broadcasts a selfish message: "If you don't have a job for me then I don't care about you."

What if you radiate a different message instead: "I love to solve other people's problems. Do you have any, or know anyone who does? Although I'm not being paid to solve problems right now, I still must keep at it or I'll get rusty. Therefore I'm happy to solve really juicy problems for free as long as they don't take up too much of my time and I receive gratitude for a job well done."

If someone asks why you would work for free, then you ask them, "I love problems as much as some people love tennis. What would you think of somebody who claims to love tennis but hasn't played in two years because nobody paid him to do it?"

It is Perfectly Legal to Work for Free

If someone says that it is illegal for them to hire you without paying you, tell them: "You are absolutely correct; it would be a violation of the minimum wage law. That is why many supposed ‘internship' programs are illegal, and the reason I am not asking you to hire me. However, it is perfectly legal for a self-employed person to pay themselves nothing. You will not be hiring me. Instead, I will be working for myself, and it is perfectly legal for me to give away free samples of my work. Many of the lawyers who sue employers for running abusive internship programs also do plenty of work pro-bono."

Read "How to Gain Experience by Working for Free – And Stay Within the Law." Understand that to call yourself self-employed, you must adopt certain attitudes toward your work, but no particular legal structure is required (such as incorporation). If you do not make any money at it then there isn't even anything you need to put on your tax return. More than anything else, self-employment is a frame of mind having to do with what psychologists call "locus of control." That said, consult your own advisers and therapists.

The minimum wage laws exist to protect innocents who are predisposed to turn over to others responsibility for their own lives. But once you see yourself as the "boss of you," then the nanny state gets out of the way. Besides, what would the world be like if the law required payment for every piece of labor? You might be prohibited from raising your own children, and they would be in violation of child labor laws if they did their own laundry. As stupid as our laws are, they are not that stupid.