Help Wanted


A lot of businesses in days gone by would put a sign in their front window indicating, “Help Wanted – Apply Within”. When you spied one such sign and were interested, you’d walk in, introduce yourself and say you were there about the job. The employer would look you up and down, ask a few questions and send you or your way or hire you; sometimes if you were lucky, on the spot. The sign was then removed from the window, and the people knew to stop dropping in because the job opening was filled.

Those signs did the trick for those companies. They simply said they needed help and help came knocking on their door – literally in this case!

Now, yes, I’ve been out and about and looked at windows where such signs are still displayed, but far less of them are out there than in days past. Most of the time this kind of advertising for help only works in high traffic areas anyhow. Malls, strip malls, heavy pedestrian traffic streets are places where they are most effective. As you well know, an employer is much more likely to post job openings on a job search website and instruct applicants to apply online.

What if people did the same thing when they were out of work and needed help to find and get their next job? I don’t mean holding a sign that says, “I need a job. Please hire me.” This kind of sign is pretty self-serving, the message clear; “I need a job so I’m asking you to hire me so that I get what I need – the money that comes from employment.” I see people with these signs approaching on ramps to major highways, standing on the street. Maybe you’ve seen them too?

First of all let’s not judge these folks harshly. We don’t know the first thing about what circumstances have led them to those on ramps and sidewalks. Judgement aside, what if those signs were written with a different message? Imagine they read, “Help Wanted: Job Search Assistance, End Goal: Employment.”

Now the average person walking down the street can come from one of a hundred different walks of life. While each person may not have the ability to offer job search ideas and support to a person, the one thing we’d all have in common and be in a place to give is some cash. This is why panhandling achieves its goal of rustling up some much-needed and immediate short-term cash. But job search support? That’s likely going to take the right person walking down the street and that person has to be counted on to both see the sign and then have the time and interest to stop and ask how they can be of help. Probably less likely to succeed but who knows.

But there is a fundamental difference in the two signs, “I need a job” and “Help Wanted: Job Search Assistance, End Goal: Employment.” The first is all about the person holding the sign; what they want and need. The second is not so much about a job being given them, but rather they are asking for help in learning how to get a job for themselves.

I’ll be honest with you though and tell you not everyone is interested or motivated in putting in the time, mental energy or work involved in learning how to do things for themselves. I mean that. There are people who’d rather have someone give them a job and be done with it; perhaps they’ve relied on people to give them jobs in the past and this is all they know. It’s too much work to learn how to go about job searching in 2018. They’ve no interest in cover letters, resume writing, interview skills, career exploration and skill identification; just give me a job thank you or move on.

Stephen Landry in Ottawa; a LinkedIn connection of mine just yesterday said something to me in a communication that got me thinking. He said, “Sometimes it’s hard for people to know how to ask for help when it’s all they know or have experienced.” He’s a wise one is Stephen. You see it’s not that people are obstinate or inflexible, they just may not know how to ask for the help they need. Good point Stephen.

I generally don’t recommend holding a sign asking for help out in public. Might be worth a go and get results but the odds are low I imagine. Rather, to increase your odds at getting the job search support you really want, a good place to start is with a social service organization in your community. Look them up online or walk in when you’re out and about. Even if you walk into the wrong place, all the social service organizations are well-connected. You’ll be listened to, (and isn’t that nice?) just enough to decide who best would serve your needs. You’ll likely get an address, a phone number and maybe some pamphlet on the services they offer.

I hesitate to give specific names of help organizations because this blog makes its way around the world. So this is where you my reader comes in. Please comment and suggest a few employment support organizations in your part of the world. If you add a place or two and others do likewise, any job seeker reading this blog will benefit.

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