THE BLOG

Artists Finding Work

07/09/2013 03:56 pm ET | Updated Sep 08, 2013

Could artists now have an advantage in finding work?

Let's take a trip down memory lane for a minute and remember when the answer was an absolute "No!" Finding work was a logical process. You read a newspaper ad. Filled out an application. Got an interview. Then, because you were more qualified than anyone . . . you got the job.

Proud of your new job, off you marched to the acres and acres of Cubicle Farms. Maybe your own office. Or place behind the register. Ruled over by a top-down leader. You kept your head down and did as you were told. Not a lot of room for art.

Now that Cubicle Farm is gone. Or outsourced. The middle manager has been laid off. The cashier has been replaced by a scanning machine. And the way you got that job is also history.

Now people work from home. They invent apps and teach their leaders how to use them.

Now, the days of pulling the right levers and 1-2-3 get a job, are drawing to a close as well. Talent managers, hiring managers and applicants are all-seeing that if mass production hiring really worked: everyone would have a job, it would be the right job and the massive cost of turnover would be plummeting.

Now that the old thinking on one size fits all job search is crumbling, an opportunity for new, individualized, creative thinking is emerging. Now, people are beginning to say out loud, "The path to finding work is not a regimented path, it's a personal path."

Personalizing the work search is an open door for the artist.

Work search today is the empty canvas, blank page or quiet piano waiting to be played. With no step by step instructions, the need now is for creativity. For the artist.

I understand the struggle. I'm an artist myself. Even worse. A writer. Thrust into this new world of trying to find work without the old familiar logical steps. Like many artists, I'm resistant to expert advice.

Facing my own need to find work, I didn't need rules. What I needed were principles. Guidelines. Universal truths that wouldn't dictate, but would guide.

I found them through my art.

I first found "The Five" -- the core principles around which Finding Work When There Are No Jobs is written -- in co-authoring another book. I Am Your Neighbor: Voices of a Chicago Food Pantry.

Here's a quick summary of "The Five" and their connection to the artist:

Tell Your Story. I Am Your Neighbor (IAYM) is an oral history. It tells the stories of 21 clients and staff of Common Pantry. Chicago's oldest continuously running Food Pantry. And what began to emerge as we wrote, published and marketed the book was something Studs Terkel proved true decades ago: the stories of normal, everyday people, told in their own voices, pack an immeasurable power. A person's story is in many ways their most important possession. In the cold, impersonal world of mass hiring, individual stories have been replaced by resumes. By data. So the artist finding work has to find continually new and different ways to tell their story.

Adding Music. As we listened to the folks sharing their stories, we begin to hear the harmonies and rhythms that made a person unique. Those silences. Adding music as a principle in finding work is a way of thinking about how to get across what it is that makes you different from any other applicant. A metaphor for what's between the lines.

Communitizing. There was ZERO "networking" involved in producing I Am Your Neighbor. My co-author and I were both members of the same church. So there was no gatekeeper, no linked in introduction or sponsorship from a hiring manager. We didn't need any of that because we already knew each other. A massively important factor in finding work. Instead of worrying about all the people you do NOT know, have you reached out to those you DO know? Most often, in the folks I have worked with to get jobs since publishing, Finding Work, the answer is 'no.'

Solving A Mystery. In addition to being a writer and businessman my co-author was a member of the Pantry Board. The Board had a need to show the value of the Pantry to the neighborhood. The Board also had serious revenue needs. But the Board also had a vision that art, that stories, could be an investment. They made the decision to invest in the book, paying my commission, recovering their costs and orchestrating a Book Launch Fund Raiser. From there, and now forever all of the revenue from the book and fund-raiser go to The Pantry. They made their vision real. Exactly the same way an artistic job seeker finds a "mystery" or a need, envisions a solution and then makes it real.

Practicing Stewardship. In this case, the stewardship was for hungry neighbors. But it could be for anything. Taking care of something larger than ones self is always a starting point for any artist seeking work.

Clustered around each of The Five in Finding Work are stories. The stories of musicians, poets, writers, artists of all types. Centered on The Five. None of the stories will give you THE ANSWER to your next job. Just as no one will give you the answer to creating your art.

But what if just one of the stories prompted one new thought for finding work?
Your work. Work that showcases the talents that make you an artist. What if artists had an advantage in finding work?

What could that mean for you?

For all of us?