Thursday, July 16, 2009

Creativity and the Job Search

The workplace is all about creativity these days. It’s the innovators who are getting the jobs (as we lurch toward a 10% unemployment rate)—whether it’s their first position or their fifth. The same old, same old strategies aren't working anymore, even in corporate America, so employers are increasingly looking for people with new ideas and new ways of thinking.

Two stories in USA Today this week highlight this fact: One, “Retrain Your Brain from ‘Left to Right’ to Fit Into the New Economy” (, highlights the story of a Washington, DC man who transitioned from being an attorney to being an interior designer after his billable hours shrank. He spent his down time making an audition tape for an HGTV reality show and posted it on his Facebook page. It didn’t get him on the show, but it did get him some clients. Another story, “No Right Brain Left Behind” (, highlights the need to prepare young people to be more right-brained (creative) to succeed in today’s marketplace.

I asked career coach extraordinare CONNIE THANASOULIS-CERRACHIO of for her advice about how to emphasize your creative skills while searching for a new job…

I’ve run staffing groups at Fortune 500 firms for almost 25 years and now I’m a career coach. I train individuals on how to optimize their job search. Oftentimes, I help them map out their major strengths and areas they are looking to develop, because these are top questions that are asked in an interview.

The pre-work is very important to the interview. I suggest individuals list their top 10 strengths, and in the column next to each strength, list an example of how they excel at this, and in another column quantify the example in some way, shape or form.

Creative problem-solving is a characteristic that is greatly valued by any company. Let’s face it: business is all about solving problems, and the more creative you can be, the more successful you will be. This applies to any discipline: marketing, finance, human resources, the law, operations, etc.

Here are some examples of creative problem-solving:
1. You are tasked with creating a technology-tracking system for new accounts. Your boss gives you a 2-month time frame and tells you that you are the lead project manager.
o A creative move could be to find someone else in the company who's worked with the technology group and ask them to be an “advisor” to save time and money that they perhaps wasted because they didn’t know any better.
o Another creative move would be this – if you had a friend who worked at another company who had a similar program, perhaps they could share it with you … as long as it didn’t violate any confidentiality or privilege rules.

2. You are tasked with creating a new campus recruiting brochure at your company. You have to decide what “hot” colors are in.
o You could go to the closest Gap store and check out their color arrangements. Gap pours tons and tons of marketing dollars into the latest colors and this could appeal to your exact demographic.

3. Your manager asks you to significantly decrease the error rates on the opening of new accounts:
o A creative move could be to do some research on how errors are decreased, both on the web, and perhaps at Barnes & Nobles. There’s a book about everything!
o You could also do a survey of the new account-opening reps and ask for the last 100 issues with new accounts, and create a short but succinct error analysis.

During an interview, it’s important to highlight your creative moves and the results. For example, the new brochure gave you strong accolades from your new recruits, so note that. Your approach on new accounts decreased errors by 25%. And your new technology program came in under-budget and on time, and the users are raving about how easy it is to use and how helpful the info is.

Remember during your interview to identify these success stories and use them to “ease the pain” of the employers who are interviewing you. It’s always about what you can do for them, so be confident about your background and clear in your explanations…and quantify EVERYTHING!

Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio is the co-founder of SixFigureStart (, a career coaching firm that partners with individuals through every stage of their job search. Connie ( and her partner built this business upon their 40 years of experience at companies such as Goldman, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Pfizer and Time Inc. Since they have literally hired thousands of individuals over the years, they know exactly what employers want and this experience and knowledge is shared with their clients so they can find their dream job. Connie also teaches at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, as an adjunct professor of Career Development.

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