Ask The Headhunter: You Think YOU Have Job Troubles?

Headhunter Nick Corcodilos tries to give job hunting advice to someone whose unique job search struggle will give you pause this Thanksgiving season.

By Nick Corcodilos


Headhunter Nick Corcodilos tries to give job hunting advice to someone whose unique job search struggle will give you pause this Thanksgiving season. Photo courtesy by John Moore/Getty Images.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees -- just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: I would desperately love to find a job that meets my needs and better applies my talents and training, but I have had no luck in eight years of looking.

My situation is that I am a medical doctor who has had to close my practice. I have a rare illness that causes near-total disability for two to five days at a time, unexpectedly and unpredictably. In between the episodes, I am fully able to function. This happens two to four times per month, so it means I am unable to reliably commit to being at an appointment, coming to work or taking a phone call. If a job can be put on hold a few times a month (unpredictably) for those days, I can then work between the times.

I have explained my situation to a number of online headhunters, and I have yet to have one return my e-mail. I have been able to find a part-time job processing medical claims. Unfortunately, it pays far less than what I used to make per hour and the work is slowly becoming less predictable. Please at least respond that you got this.


Nick Corcodilos: Sorry to hear this -- I've heard just about every kind of job hunting story, but this is new. My fundamental approach to job hunting is this: You need to walk into the employer's office and hands-down demonstrate how you're going to contribute profit to the bottom line. (Profit can of course mean any of a number of things. Please see The Basics.

I've helped people find jobs despite medical and physical limitations, but none of them so unpredictable or with such cycles. So here's the problem: I'm not sure how you could meet the challenge I described if your condition flares up unpredictably. You'd need to find work that gives you great latitude about when you can do it and when it is due.

I think you have to start there -- and I'd have to mull on this for quite a while to think of kinds of work where you'd have that kind of freedom. Something tells me there is such work -- where you define your own hours and where the time for delivery of the output of the job is not fixed.

MORE FROM NICK CORCODILOS: Ask The Headhunter: How Much Would You Pay for a Job?

Not to sound silly, but to frame an approach to this challenge, consider the guy who sells me firewood. He delivers sometime in September or October -- I really don't care exactly when. He cuts wood all year long, whenever he decides. Then I pay him. Not that you're going to cut wood -- but you see what I mean.

I think you need to step back and consider not what you want, but what kinds of businesses and work permit this kind of freedom. I'd sit down and outline the constraints you face very candidly, then visit your library. (See The Library Vacation.) Hit the magazine and periodical stacks. Explore product and service areas. This won't be easy, but it could be fun -- and it could give you back your sense of control over your life. The point is to explore businesses you might not think of on your own -- or think to search for online.

There is work that someone will pay you to do -- work that gives you some leeway. Finding it will be a challenge, but I don't think it's impossible. I think there's a good chance you'll be working for yourself and contracting your services or selling some product/services combination.

I don't think you need to cut wood. But unless you are very clever (everyone needs to be today), you will probably not earn what you used to. Then again, you might.

My purpose here is to help you think through this. There is no easy answer. I wish you the best -- and if you try what I'm suggesting, I'd be happy to correspond with you again.

The reader writes back: I cannot express how much I appreciate you responding to my e-mail. Even though there is no answer readily available, it's nice to know somebody at least understands what I am facing. I think your wood cutting analogy captures the essence of the problem.

I realize I am very fortunate to even have the job I have.

I have thought a lot about the kind of work I might be able to do, but not as systematically as you describe. I am already making much less than what I used to, but that in some ways is not as important as having some job security doing work that also gives some non-monetary reward.

I will definitely follow through on your suggestions and appreciate your willingness to correspond with me if I have any creative breakthroughs.

Thank you again for your kindness in responding, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Nick Corcodilos: All of us have problems. Even those in dire straits are not as badly off as the worst -- and the rest of us sometimes need a sobering reminder about how much a few people, like you, go through just to get by. A Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

I know there are many readers who have been out of work a long time under difficult circumstances. I invite you to think about this particularly unusual situation -- and to offer your ideas about types of work that might be flexible enough for the reader in this week's column.

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters...and how to make headhunters work for you," "How Can I Change Careers?", "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps" and "Fearless Job Hunting."

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow @PaulSolman