The thin line between standing out and striking out

In “Generation Job: The Pursuit to Find Better®” one job seeker stands on the street with a clever sign in an attempt to land his ideal job.

Allah Jesus Ali pitches his personal brand on the streets of New York in “Generation Job: The Pursuit To Find Better®.”

Allah Jesus Ali pitches his personal brand on the streets of New York in “Generation Job: The Pursuit To Find Better®.” Courtesy: pivot

In the pivot original documentary “Generation Job: The Pursuit To Find Better®,” Allah Jesus Ali, an aspiring brand strategist in his late-20s, stands on the street with a sign that says “Jesus for Hire.”

His attempt at recognition goes well — he had solid material for a personal branding campaign and for his website, and it attracted the attention of a handful of passersby. His approach served as an example of how far some Millennials go to stand out in a tough job market.

But Jessica Miller-Merrell, author of, cautions that there’s a thin line between going over the top and striking the right chord with hiring managers.

“So much of the interview process is based on hiring managers’ and recruiters’ preferences,” she says. “It also depends on the industry.”

She told the story of the young man who sent a cardboard cutout of himself to Google and got an interview. She told another story where the attempt at getting an interview was desperate, not daring.

“In 2007, Wall Street financiers grabbed a sandwich board, took to the street and said ‘hire me’ after the bottom dropped out,” she said.

Also, who could forget Marina Shifrin, the 25-year-old who loudly quit her editor job at an animation studio by way of an interpretive dance she filmed and posted to YouTube. Her move was controversial — and in some circles downright disliked — but she got noticed.

While the traditional job application route still works for the majority of job candidates, in today’s world you also sometimes need to add ingenuity and a touch of risk.

In April 2013, job-seeker Janic Neilssen launched a website that mimicked a Kickstarter page. It was aptly titled: KickJanic.

Neilssen’s effort succeeded — he was hired as a marketing coordinator at Thrillist Media Group one month later — but this unorthodox attempt at a job-search could have backfired.

“He could have been delivered a ‘cease and desist’ from Kickstarter,” Miller-Merrell said.

But, she added, for those in Generation Y struggling to find meaningful work, anything is worth a shot: “They have less to lose.”

Miller-Merrell recommends college-aged job seekers “get off campus” and go to where their potential bosses might go. Join the professional clubs their hiring managers would join. Hiring managers are probably going to be older, she said, and likely to miss the more clever cues.

“Getting your 10 minutes of fame on the Internet or the news seems like a good thing, but it doesn’t always appeal to the hiring manager,” she said. “When you consider the hiring manager is probably 40-plus, it might not get the attention of the right person.”

Starting a personal website, having your personal marketing materials in hand and, above all, being prepared, she says, is the best route. The attempts at going viral are fine, but, she cautions, thoroughly think through your plan.

“You need to have something more than just the sandwich board.”

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