A few weeks back someone interested in our upcoming Career Transition workshop emailed me asking:
“Who has $300 for such a workshop if they are unemployed or underemployed? Sounds like a great workshop I can’t afford to attend. “
It’s a good question and really goes to the heart of how we think through engaging paid support services to help us work through our particular challenges, whether related to our careers or some other aspect of our lives.
I took 2 actions from this question — the first is that I wrote back (my response is below) and the 2nd thing I did was to create a price specifically for unemployed/student participants where I defer $100 of the workshop fee until that person is employed. It’s completely on trust (I’m not going to check if they are unemployed or a registered student, and I’m trusting that they will pay up the $100 deferred fee when their finances allow. Basically I think most everyone is trustworthy, and I’m prepared to build my business around that belief…).
On the actual question posed, here is what I wrote back:
Thanks for your note; it is a good question; I believe you have to look at it as an investment in yourself and your career development.
If attending this workshop was to save you 20 to 40 hours of frustrating job search time over the next couple of months, would it be worth it to you? If attending the workshop gave you a better idea of how to find a job that really fit you and so you enjoyed your new job 30% more, would that be worth it to you – to be 30% happier in an activity that we spend 1/3 of our lives in? If attending this workshop put you on a path to actively exploring and acting on your real passions in your career future, would it be a good investment of your time and money?
That was my initial answer; a deeper answer is that the whole career development space is full of wonky (and flawed) economic thinking. In focusing on moving your career forward, there are some obvious alternatives open to us:
- First off, we often think we know how to go about it — we just dust off our CV, update it with our latest work summaries, and then just hit the job boards and fire off applications that look interesting to us. After all, if is a numbers game and a matching process, isn’t our best strategy just to hunker down and spend several hours a day responding to posted job ads? And if we feel our CV is not up to scratch, we’ll often consider paying $500 or more to have someone spend a few hours and really buff it up for us, in the hope and belief that a better CV will lead us directly to a better job.
No, no no — it turns out that this whole process of job posting & applications is a deeply flawed (business) process that doesn’t work very well for the organization itself, and is absolutely brutal for the applicant. For the applicant it is worse that just a waste of their time; it actively reduces your confidence and clarity over time so that a few months into it you are more confused and more dejected than ever. If you’ve ever spent a few months applying for jobs and receiving little or no feedback, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So, even though you spent no money, you invariably dig yourself a deeper hole of pain and anguish and end up spending a huge amount of time accomplishing negative outcomes. And its even worse if you spent the $500 to get a cranked-up CV — now you are out $500 with nothing really to show for it.
- Secondly, if we need some help, there are always a number of free clinics, seminars, and books that that we can use. The local Y probably offers free career clinics, as will any number of well-meaning not-for-profits in the area. I’ve attended a number of these, and also provide mentoring services to some of the better programs. One of the biggest drawbacks of most of these is that while the advice offered is good, they don’t generally provide a well designed “system” for moving you forward on your path. More often it’s topic specific (how to network more effectively; writing a killer CV; developing your brand) which again are great components, but how do they all fit together and which do I do first? What do I do next?How does the “system” actually work?
This is where these free services very often fail to deliver real value to the participant; most of us haven’t developed an accurate holistic picture of how the pieces fit together so just being given the pieces in some jumble isn’t actually very helpful. If you attend enough of these clinics and workshops, and read enough career books what you are ultimately left with is all the pieces (delivered to varying degrees of quality and accuracy) but no blueprint to really hold them together in a step-by-step sequence. It is kind of like having all the pieces to do a complicated jigsaw puzzle, but missing the front cover of what the finished picture is supposed to look like! If you’ve ever tried this, you know it leads to maximum frustration and, more often than not, abandoning the project.
So, why should you be willing to spend a few hundred bucks for a high quality career workshop when money is tight? Fundamentally, it is one of the few investments you can make in yourself that can lead directly to greater career satisfaction which in turn often leads to greater compensation and more interesting future opportunities. And if it prevents you from spinning your wheels, wasting your time and getting more depressed, then again it is a great investment in your personal health and well-being.