The phrase "out-of-the-box" is bandied about a lot in management and self-development circles. When people come across a problem that seems insurmountable, there's plenty of advice about "thinking outside the box". Unfortunately there is no manual that tells you exactly how to think outside the box when you are faced with a specific problem.
When I arrived in New Zealand as an immigrant with a qualification that was accredited by NZ Qualifications Authority and over a decade of work experience under my belt, I was feeling pretty confident about my chances of finding a job fairly soon. In fact, the immigration consultant (a local New Zealander) had told me during the immigration process that with my professional profile, I should easily get a job within a month. Little did I know that he was only being a typical salesman, to get me on board as his client. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and despite sending out applications by the dozens each week, I was unable to get a single interview call. I tried every rule in the book of CVs and covering letters, constantly chopping and changing them to try and get an interview but all I got was a steadily thickening file of rejection letters. Door knocking, cold calling - nothing worked. It was all about employers not wanting to hire someone without local experience. The typical chicken-and-egg scenario was playing out in full force in my life - how could I ever get kiwi experience without getting a local job, and how could I ever get a local job without getting an interview call?
My "out-of-the-box" moment happened when I was at a University office to apply for admission to a management degree, having reached the end of my tether with respect to sending out job applications. After rejection number 200, I finally gave up and decided to study in the hope that a local qualification might convince prospective employers that I was worth at least being called for an interview. It was there that I met a lady who was doing her doctorate in Human Resources and her thesis was on the challenges being faced by recent immigrants in finding work. She asked if I would agree to being one of her case studies. With nothing to lose, I agreed. After she interviewed me for her thesis, she promised to stay in touch, a promise that I took with a pinch of salt after my rather frustrating experience over the past 10 months. A few weeks later, I received a call from her telling me that one of her journalist friends was doing an article on recent immigrants in the national newspaper NZ Herald, and she had recommended my name to him. To cut a long story short, despite my initial apprehensions and advice from well-meaning friends about avoiding the press, I ended up being in the paper with my story and photograph getting published, which led to a business owner reading about me, contacting me through the paper, and becoming my first employer.
Sometimes, we have to resort to unconventional methods for solving a problem that defeats all our conventional, time-tested methods of problem solving. And unconventional solutions can only surface when we stretch our thinking outside the box.