08/02/2012 06:46 pm ET Updated Oct 02, 2012

Create Your Own Job Opening

Unemployment would be lower if more people created their own job openings. I'm not talking about entrepreneurship, although that is one way people create their own jobs. I'm referring to a strategy in which you think creatively about work that you might do and convince an employer to hire you to do this work.

Understand that the process by which job candidates are matched to jobs is not a zero-sum game in which each job opening is part of an inflexible total number. In reality, many employers are able to react to the availability of talent by creating job openings that otherwise they would not have considered. These are not the job openings one reads about that employers are unable to fill because of a lack of qualified applicants. Rather, this is a whole other category of jobs that employers would create if a qualified person made a case for a new job that would benefit the business.

You can be that person. Research an employer and identify a potential job function that currently is going unfilled. For example, maybe the employer's products would find ready buyers in an untapped market that you know well, so you offer your services as a sales representative focusing on that market segment. Or perhaps there's a technology that the employer has not yet implemented and that you're capable of rolling out. Or you may be capable of managing a process that presently is divided among several departments and therefore is getting inadequate oversight.

To identify these potential work roles, stop thinking in terms of occupational titles that might fit your skills and interests. Instead, think in terms of tasks that you want to do and for which you have the necessary skills. Then network with people who have skills similar to your own. Try not to focus on their job titles, and instead find out exactly what they do for their employers and then find another employer who doesn't have someone serving precisely the same need. Networking is the best way to learn what is and is not going on at a potential target company.

You may get a chance to show employers what you can do for them by offering to perform the work for a week or two with no pay, with the understanding that you're auditioning for a job. Another way to get them to try out your skills is to suggest doing the work as a consultant. I once got a job by getting my foot in the door as a consultant and making myself so irreplaceable that the boss offered to take me on full-time when another employer was about to interview me (for a job I didn't particularly want). Of course, you may discover that you enjoy the consulting lifestyle more than a regular staff position.

This job-creating strategy requires imagination and good networking skills, and not everyone is willing to invest the energy it requires. But for people who have the necessary skills and creativity, it may be the best way to get hired in a job market where advertised openings are scarce.