by Mark Anthony Zappa

Which is a stronger response to the following question? 

“What have you been doing since your last job?” 

“Looking for a job.”  OR   “Been developing my strategic business skills!” 


The second answer captures the business-minded knowledge and abilities you, as a creative job seeker, acquire in identifying the next market for your skills. Do employers need people with such market-driven savvy? Sure they do! The global market is in constant technological change. Fast and flexible people who can add value are in demand, now, more than ever.


Take a look at the enterprising talents you have used during your job search:

  • Strategic self-marketing: You are creating a brand to distinguish yourself from the competition. For example, you might create a stylistic letterhead, which could include a graphic and a slogan about your work. Used on your cover letter, resume and any other follow-up correspondence, this could be the kind of positive professionalism that sets you apart from other candidates.
  • Research and development: This is the time you spend re-tooling or re-schooling your transferrable skills to the demands of the emerging economy.
  • Setting a vision: This is the business skill of aligning your inner and outer resources to meet goals. The strategic jobseeker has learned to spot opportunities, not just respond to job postings. For example, the economic activity associated with a major construction project will generate work of many kinds. The active jobseeker notes this kind of news, typically found in the business section of the newspaper and in weekly business periodicals, and immediately begins networking to find names of key people and contractors related to that project.  He or she can visualize where his or her skills can help. The passive jobseeker, who thinks “I will be sure to keep my eyes open for a job posting” might be too late, and that is an opportunity missed! 
  • Innovation and cost-effectiveness: Anybody out there creating a family or personal budget based on the limits of a lowered income?  Everybody now has to creatively do-more-with-less.
  • Resourcefulness and risk-taking: Now, more than ever, job seekers are networking and knocking on new doors in a creative search for resources and connections. This is the time of new-think, no longer asking, “How did we used to do that?” but rather, “How can we make this happen?”


The dramatic, often painful, changes in the emerging global economy have forced us all to stretch, redefine and rediscover ourselves. These are the growth stories that forward-looking employers look forward to hearing.


Mark Anthony Zappa is a workshop facilitator at the North St. Paul and St. Paul WorkForce Centers.