You want it? Then go and get it.  It sounds so trite, but I heard that expression a lot from my parents as I was growing up, so the movie, The Pursuit of Happiness, cut straight into my soul when I first saw it.  Early on in the movie, Chris Gardner

[played by Will Smith] tells his son

don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t do something…. you want something go get it… period.

In the movie and real life, Gardner faced seemingly insurmountable odds but stuck with it and eventually got what he was after.  Throughout the movie people and circumstances were conspiring against him left, right and centre.

Now, the big question is –  is this real life or just the ONE example where this happened to work out?

Well all I know for certain is that it certainly mirrored a lot of what I went through when I first went into the recruiting business.  I could relate to a lot of the same lessons that Chris learned.  Let me explain.

When I first got into the recruiting business, I did so because I wanted to help people.  I was such an idealist and very naive at the time 🙂 I had spent the previous year [1985] helping my friends get jobs by cold-calling employers and telling them about, “this great guy who’s working in my warehouse but has an MBA and really wants to…”  I was surprisingly good at it. So after reading What Color is Your Parachute by Dick Boles and designing my own workbook and get a job system – I decided I wanted to do this for a living.  I had no clue how ruthless and cold-blooded some people really are.  Nor how much sales has to do with this profession.

I approached literally every search, recruiting and placement firm in the city. i was  summarily rejected because I didn’t have any direct sales experience.   Which confused me because first I thought it was all about HR not sales and I had two degrees, my commission in the armed forces, had won 28 out of 36 district sales contest, and 3 national sales contest at the the retailer where I had P&L for 5 stores and 16.5M.

Most of the owners I approached were down right rude to me – only a couple actually laughed.

But I did eventually get in and my training consisted of a set of Tony Bruno tapes and two big books: The Yellow Pages and The White Pages [remember them] 🙂  It was a ruff, albeit typical, baptism into the business.  I worked in the back room.  Way back, behind the nice reception area and fancy interview offices, behind closed doors. It was what ‘sales’ guys refer to as a ‘bull-pen’ with banks and banks of telephones lined up along great long desks.  The environment was built for smiling and dialing and watching for slackers..

The company I first worked at burned through “counselors” on a weekly basis.  We were all a 100% commission based.  To keep us motivated and ‘dialing’ I heard a daily dose of:

  • only the tough survive
  • no guts – no glory
  • the cream rises to the top, and
  • put up or shut up

First lesson: pay attention to the ‘words’ and advice you let into your head.

Guard against counsel that is presented as being in your best interest, because a lot of times it isn’t.  Chris does a great job in this clip explaining that concept to his son.  You should listen to it and  internalize Chris’s wisdom.  He got it right. And while not all ‘bad advice’ is malicious, often it’s just plain wrong – no matter how pure the intentions of the person who’s giving it to you.

Right now for example, if you’re unemployed and looking for opportunities you may have been told that you’ll have to settle for a less interesting or lower paying position because the market’s just horrible.

That type of feedback maybe coming from a well meaning spouse OR a friend who has a job, and has run out of helpful ideas and/or grown tired of your situation.

Don’t listen. Here’s why.

First, the market is tough BUT the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s  monthly “hires rate” has been a consistent 4 million plus since June of last year:  That means that for the last 6 months – four million people were hired in the Untied States.  I will bet you didn’t see 4 million adds did you! No — because that’s not how hiring is done anymore.

The way employers find and hire people today has changed dramatically. They hunt for talent themselves and they do it stealthily.  Moreover, employer’s will continue to hire in stealth mode right through 2011.  So if you didn’t know that then chances are your friends don’t know that either.

But, the truth is, the way people get hired has changed dramatically.   Sort of like when job boards first came along and killed off the newspaper career advertising [circa 1989].  Today, newer techniques such as “Boolean search strings” that recruiters run through Google have changed how employers locate and attract talent/  Employers no longer need newspapers OR job boards by-in-large.

So contrary to popular opinion, there are plenty of jobs in America in the “hidden job market” – lot’s of them.  But hidden they will stay because employers fear been swamped and overwhelmed by desperate unqualified job hunters.

So, the rules have changed.  In today’s tough job market and slow economy, job hunters need to get their head in the game.  You better be the sharpest razor in the box when it comes to finding a job because jobs today only go to the best ‘searchers – not the most qualified.  To get at these opportunities, you need to re-learn how to search and articulate their value to employers in concrete terms they can understand.

And above all else – you need to focus on the activities that keep you moving forward and that includes a healthy mind that looks objectively at the data and tries to find new ways to reach-out to employers and create a positive future.


Hardly.  I speak from experience.  Remember that recruiting firm I started talking about at the beginning?  It got way more interesting as I got in to it…

I got married.

My honeymoon was an adventure and lot of fun.  When I returned to the recruiting agency after my honeymoon I was horrified to discover that 3 of my deals had closed while I was on my honeymoon and I wasn’t going to get paid for any of it.

You see, my boss told me behind closed doors – right after he toasted my upcoming nuptials with the entire staff – that if any of my deals closed while I was away on my honeymoon I wouldn’t get credit for them.

So I went down the hall afterwards and asked my coworkers not to tell him if that happened. They laughed.   They said the odds of any deal closing by itself – let alone mine closing- where astronomical.  I was a rookie.  And I was cold-call shy so I didn’t pound the phones like everyone else everyday looking for deals.  I had my own way.

Any way, the deals closed.  They told the boss and I was fired that same day I got back – following a rather heated debate where my boss told me,  “I’d just gotten lucky, that I sucked at being a recruiter.  Never did anything the way I was supposed to and was a bad influence on the rest of the staff.” 

I was stiffed for my half of the $84,000.00.   I was on 100% commission – and in 1985, $43,000 was a lot of money.  It still is!  I didn’t have enough money for a lawyer and legal aid wasn’t an option because I wasn’t poor enough – yet!

My friends told me to throw in the towel on this and go back to retail OR worse – banking.

Me, I thought NO WAY!  I’m a sucker for punishment.  Ask anyone that knows me, I’m always rolling a rock up a hill.  That’s Just who I am – fortunately!  I wasn’t going to listen to my former boss, my friends or anyone else.  I was good at this and I was going to continue doing it.  I figured if my boss was right and I’d just gotten lucky – imagine what would happen when I finally figured out what I was doing.

The only way I could fight back was to go get another job and prove them wrong.  Which I did.  And in my first year as a recruiter I took home $9,000 on $98,000 in billings.  Rookie-of-the-year I was.  Very depressing.  Almost enough to make a grown man cry. I worked 80 hour weeks to make that 9 grand.

My wife and I lived out in the country – in a house that was 28 x 20 with no basement.  That is small.  Very small.  So small that  I had to go outside.  That’s 560 square feet – smaller than most bachelor apartments.  We had one car which my wife needed because she worked nights.  I hitchhiked to work for nearly 5 months.  It was easier in the winter because I looked desperate for a drive but not dangerous in my 3-piece suit and briefcase.

My parents told me I was crazy and my dad kept telling me I was going to be living out of a box in no time if I kept it up.  He’s a Navy man who was schooled in “tuff love”.  Actually, he knew exactly how to motivate me.  My new bride was nervous but supportive.

We got through it.   The 2nd year I took home $58,000.00 on $758,000.00 in billings. Not bad for a 26 year old kid.  The following year I opened Perry-Martel International Inc.

Why am I telling you this?  Because it reminds me of Chris Gardner’s journey through tough times.  It reminds me of what a lot of job hunters have been going through for the last four years, and I just wanted to remind you that it can work out if you continue to press forward.

I am not suggesting you have to live in your car or a subway bathroom like Chris.  But you may have to take on a part-time job while you’re looking for that full-time career.  You may have to make a few detours.  But if you keep your goal in front of you – you can make it.

Second lesson: if you get tired with doing what you’ve been doing and not getting any results, try something creative like Chris.

[Watch the movie and you’ll see more than a few creative job search tactics] I won’t tell you which ones I used to land that first recruiting gig… but it’s in the movie!

Now I would like to tell you one of my favorite quotes. It’s about Christopher Columbus – the guy who discovered America – and it goes like this:

If Christopher Columbus had turned back, no one would have blamed him. Of course, no one would have remembered him, either.

Columbus knew what he was doing. He had a clear vision of what awaited him and he stuck with it.

Third lesson: quitting is habit forming – fortunately so is sticking with a plan.

Stick with your plan.  Stand your ground.  Focus and push Never give up.  Oh sure, you may have to go sideways occasionally but never give the goal of finding a job you absolutely love because when you do, you will never “work” another day in your life.  You will feel better about yourself too.

And lastly – if you’re feeling out of luck this week please DO remember one of my other favorite quotes – also attributed to Portuguese sailors,  

If there is no wind — Row!

David Perry


co-author, Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0, co-founder Guerrilla Job Search International Inc. and managing partner of Perry-Martel International Inc.