Job Hunting Inspirations – Taylor Hicks Style
Looking out on the morning rain,
I used to feel so uninspired.
And when I knew I had to face another day,
Lord, it made me feel so tired.
Before the day I met you, life was so unkind,
But your love was the key to my peace of mind.
Aretha Franklin – “A Natural Woman”
Although the Queen of Soul first belted this hit over the airwaves more than three decades ago, its sentiments are as relevant now as they were then. Today, every media vehicle teems with negatives. Browser pages on our computers greet us each morning with news of natural disasters, violent crime, and the ever-sinking economy. In such times, we grasp for and cling to encouragement wherever we may find it. When truly fortunate, we are directed to something whose intrinsic worth is more far-reaching than immediate forms of respite and motivation. Often, that “something” is a “someone:” a role model. Neophytes in business have dedicated mentors; sports figures have team captains and coaches. While these are avenues and examples of traditional role models, we sometimes find our guiding lights through routes perhaps not as obvious as these.
When Taylor Hicks first entered our living rooms in January of 2006 via American Idol, he seemed to have anything but “role model” stamped all over him. Gleaning a single winner from the 100,000 hopefuls nationwide, Idol represented the back door, the “hidden job market,” if you will, to Hicks. As one of the oldest contestants and the only one sporting prematurely gray hair, Taylor’s powerful, emotional voice was throwback-bluesy and flavored with old school soul; his stage presence recalled the iconoclastic and admittedly spastic Joe Cocker. Hicks, a Birmingham, Alabama son born and bred, was 180 degrees removed from the ultra-cool vocal styling and fashion sense of the younger, hipper, more marketable competition that had historically reached the summit of the Idol ladder. Taylor knew full well that he was facing an uphill battle.
However, as Simon Cowell unleashed a resounding “Nay” to this underdog’s entry into the competition, few could have envisioned that Taylor would not only win American Idol, but become a role model for so many, including the founders and members of charitable organizations that sprang up in his honor, and those of us now facing apparently fruitless job searches. An obscure singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist touring the Deep South for nearly ten years, Taylor conducted his own brand of networking via his job search for a seemingly elusive record contract. Half musician/singer/songwriter and half self-promoter, Taylor marketed himself ferociously to all potential employers. Peddling his independently released and self-bankrolled CD’s, “In Your Time” and “Under the Radar,” from the back of his van, he pitched record producers, DJ’s, and other would-be reps: the counterparts to human resources personnel, hiring managers, and recruiters. But all of his knocking never opened a single door. Undeterred, Taylor re-applied himself to his job search with unwavering focus and drive.
He researched, contacted, and sweet talk-badgered booking agents, gaining occasional buy-in’s from established luminaries such as Jackson Browne and James Brown, who allowed Taylor and his band to open for them … without pay. The never-say-die Alabamian also networked with rising stars such as Dierks Bentley, a buddy from Taylor’s frustrating Nashville days and now a country music recording star.
The inroads that Taylor carved, however, were not enough for a man driven to make his living exclusively by crafting, recording, and performing his music. In desperation, he turned to the one place where he was almost certain to meet defeat: a reality show whose audience seemed to crave younger, moldable talent ripe for commercial radio. In capitalizing upon his equivalent of the hidden job market, Taylor realized his dream, hopping a train to victory paved with the tracks that he had laid with faith, focus, and application. Garnering the lion’s share of the final 63 million public votes, Taylor Hicks nailed a million-dollar contract with Arista Records. When this relationship later dissolved via mutual consent, and through Taylor’s desire to gain full creative control over his work, the winner continued to market himself conscientiously, expanding his network of possibilities.
Now flying under his own label, Modern Whomp, Taylor will launch his newest work, “The Distance,” on March 10, 2009, as produced by Eric Clapton/BB King/Faith Hill collaborator Simon Climie. His additional, independently won accomplishments include a bring-down-the-house role in the Broadway-gone-national gangbusters play, “Grease,” and a Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed by the renowned children’s medical research and services organization, the Shriners Hospitals for Children. A clear winner on many fronts, Taylor does not rest on his laurels: he continues to market himself constantly.
Attempting entry into a job market glutted with competition, we, as job candidates, can take inspiration from Taylor’s trials and triumphs. If the job boards, print ads, and recruiters do not yield viable opportunities, we must network via less obvious routes. We must establish connections and/or reconnect with members of industry/professional groups, school alumni associations, and various organizations, such as local Chambers of Commerce as well as charities for which we may volunteer. (Taylor, by the way, was “giving back” to the community even as a struggling musician; primarily to Kid One Transport and Studio by the Tracks). We must also capitalize upon opportunities inherent in the ever-growing member populations of Internet sites such as Linkedin, as well as the large social networking boards: Facebook, MySpace, and the recently popular Twitter. Like Taylor Hicks, with diligence, concentration, and the courage to step “outside the box,” we may yet emerge as winners.