Novel approach to job hunting: A do-it-yourself radio ad

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Larry Fowler figures that what works for car dealerships and furniture stores just might find work for an unemployed software engineer, so he's laying out $1,500 to buy a series of radio ads touting his technical skills and achievements ... delivered in his own everyman voice.

After all, they say finding a job is an exercise in salesmanship.

The local newspaper has already bought Fowler's pitch, publishing a front-page story about the Hopkinton, Mass. resident and his radio gambit last Friday. (Disclosure: Fowler is a neighbor of mine, although we've met only once. I didn't know he worked in IT until reading the story.)

His radio commercial can be heard here.

A self-employed consultant since 1984, the 65-year-old Fowler has served a who's who of industry and government clients, yet finds himself in the unfamiliar position of having to drum up work.

From that article:

He tried more traditional routes after his last job as a consultant ended a year ago. He said at one time, he got almost nightly calls with job leads, but the phone has stopped ringing.

Fowler scoured the Internet for positions to no avail. He enrolled in training sessions on giving interviews and finding jobs.

"I called all my friends and buddies, but everyone's out of work or not hiring," Fowler said.

I asked him a few questions of my own via e-mail, which seemed a bit odd given that we live on the same street. Here's that exchange:

When did the radio idea come to you and when did you really decide to follow through?

 I thought of the idea years ago but never really considered doing it until lately.  I am working with a coach to teach me interview techniques and resume writing, as I have survived on word of mouth, friends and colleagues and never really had to make a concerted job search.  I guess a long career never having to look for a job should be considered good, but now I am missing a few of the essentials.

What kind of work do you see yourself best suited for at this point?

One thing I have learned is that programming is not about a language but a thought process. This has enabled me to develop many interesting solutions to problems over the years, not all associated with programming.  I have worked as both an engineer and an engineering manager, both with a fair measure of success. I've also worked as a liaison between defense contractors and the military.

My work has been predominately but not exclusively associated with testing; everything from designing the test system Boeing uses to certify their airplanes with the FAA to Internet switches and disk drives. Many times I am hired to solve immediate last-minute design and development problems.

What kind of reaction are you expecting from the radio ad?

I have no idea what to expect.  It has never been done before, as least not that anyone I know has heard of.  I am hoping someone will see the ad as a unique, creative and innovative solution to a problem and be interested in talking to someone who is able to approach problems in new ways.  Everyone I talked to initially thought the ad was a dumb idea but changed their minds after considering it for a while.  This included the radio station.

The one glaring omission in the newspaper story (at least in my mind) was this: Do you believe your age is hampering your ability to find work?

I think my age is a consideration for a permanent position ... for a consulting assignment it probably isn't.  

Good luck, neighbor.

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