Offbeat website reboots job search

Staff WriterJuly 10, 2011 

After Cris Cohen was laid off from his job as a contract worker for Cisco Systems in April, he decided a conventional job search just wasn't going to cut it.

"The typical way of looking for a job has always been very frustrating, the whole thing that you have to present yourself in the format of a résumé, which is two pages and has all the excitement of insurance literature," said Cohen, 40, of Cary.

So Cohen ventured down the unorthodox path of creating a website, "Cris Recruits A Company," that provides a more engaging, more personalized showcase of his talents - including his writing skill.

"Hi. I'm Cris and I am looking for a company to join, one that needs people who can do more than just one job, people who can adapt," Cohen states on the home page of crisrecruitsacompany.weebly.com. "Although I favor communications work, I am the employee equivalent of a Swiss army knife in that I have multiple skills and I look good in red."

Indeed, Cohen's varied work history is anything but résumé-friendly since it is, as Duke Ellington would have said, beyond category. As Cohen points out on his website, "I am experienced in communications, sales operations, project management, and certifications security enforcement (I swear I did not make that last job up)."

In case you're wondering, certifications security enforcement work was what Cohen did as a contract worker at Cisco for the past four years. It turns out that there's an active black market in Cisco certification exams, and Cohen, according to his website, was a project manager whose responsibilities included "creating tools, processes and programs for identifying illegal replication and distribution of Cisco testing and certification materials."

Given the struggling economy and the high unemployment rate, job seekers across the country are trying new methods - video résumés, renting billboards - to stand out from the crowd.

It's an extra tool

David Rhode, managing partner at Vaco Raleigh, an executive placement and consulting firm, said a website such as Cohen's enables job seekers to call attention to pluses that might not make a résumé. In Cohen's case, that includes the speaking engagements he has booked to promote a humor book that he plans to self-publish in September, "Staying Crazy to Keep From Going Insane."

But, Rhode cautioned, it's not a replacement for the traditional tools of job seekers: networking, applying for positions online and preparing a résumé.

"If you think you are going to build it and they will come, you are mistaken," Rhode said.

Cohen agrees. He's hoping the website will give his job search some extra oomph, but he's using it as a supplement to a conventional job search. That includes, among many other things, "communicating with any and all family and friends" that he's on a job hunt.

Rhode also stressed that anyone who takes this approach needs to "make sure it is done really well and really professionally" - a standard that, in his opinion, Cohen has met.

Issues such as misspelled words or haphazard organization, Rhode said, could turn what should be a "positive differentiator" into a negative one.

Finding a role model

Cohen was blindsided when his boss at Spherion Staffing Services, a company that provides contract workers nationwide, told him that he was being let go as part of a downsizing at Cisco. The day before Cohen had been given a new work assignment.

"It was one of those typical situations where you're going 100 miles an hour and then suddenly somebody says you don't have a job anymore," Cohen said.

Cohen is a fan of a blog written by Seth Godin, a best-selling author and marketing guru, so he decided to ask him for advice on how to conduct a different kind of job search. Godin referred him to the "Susan Hires A Boss" website. It was created in 2009 by a protégé of Godin's, Susan Villas Lewis, when she was seeking a job.

Cohen liked what he saw.

"My superpower is getting things done," Lewis boasted on her website ( main.susan hiresaboss.com ). "I battle the agent of chaos. I overdeliver. I delight. I amaze. And I'm looking for a place in need of a super hero like me."

Lewis said in a phone interview that she was contacted by 40 or so companies from across the country who saw her website, including a software development firm in Nashville, Tenn., that ultimately hired her for a marketing job. However, she had a not-so-secret weapon that Cohen doesn't: Godin promoted her website on his blog ( seth godin.typepad.com ).

"That was a huge advantage," she said.

Still looking

"Cris Recruits A Company" has been up for about six weeks and, so far, hasn't produced any tangible results for Cohen. But he isn't discouraged.

"I know times are difficult," he said. "I like that it's a proactive step. I like that I can update it and it's not just ye old resume."

When he communicates with a prospective employer, he makes sure to refer them to the website.

His hope is that executives will visit and say to themselves, "I like that he is doing something different."

david.ranii@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4877

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