Silver Lining for Cain in Run for GOP Nomination

iStockphoto © porcorexBy Joe Grimm

Herman Cain’s run for the Republican presidential nomination has a lesson for job seekers.

Elections often teach us lessons about careers.

With Cain’s run suspended, analysts wrote about how Cain won, not just about how he lost.

Reuters’ Andy Sullivan wrote, “Industry experts say that post-campaign, Cain could triple his speaking fee to more than $50,000. . . . .

In The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters speculated on Cain’s prospects with the Fox Network: “. . . Cain would join a who’s who of conservative analysts and politicians who are employed by the network — people like Sarah Palin, Karl Rove and John Bolton, the former United Nations ambassador for George W. Bush.”

A subhead on a Christian Science Monitor article said, in part, “His promise to endorse one of the other candidates means political power, and his books and other endeavors will bring him more money.”

© iStockphoto by porcorex

iStockphoto © by porcorex

By using this most public of job applications, Cain launched an encore career and has greatly increased his earning potential. He also exposed himself to all kinds of revelations about his past that he would have preferred to keep quiet.

What Cain did, and what we all can do by applying for stretch jobs, is reframe the way people see us.

For job seekers, this is most effectively done with internal applications.

When a reporter applies to be an assigning editor, he or she proclaims supervisory ambitions. When copy editors ask to switch to Web development, supervisors see them in a new light.

Doing this involves little risk.

No one expects a reporter to leap right into management on the first bid, or for copy editors to switch departments immediately. But by gunning for high-value positions, we make ourselves seem more valuable.

Applying for an open position can get you face time with newsroom supervisors and a chance to describe your vision for the operation and to ask about theirs. We can attract the training, support and mentoring that will prepare us for an eventual move. Occasionally lightning strikes, and the unexpected candidate gets the job.

So, don’t shrink from applying for jobs that might surprise people. There can be great benefits just in trying.

But here are three caveats:

• Don’t be ridiculous. You want to seem edgy, not wacky. If you propose to leapfrog several layers of supervision or to move into an area where you have no skills, you will hurt your credibility, not help it. If you are unsure about how far is too far, ask a mentor for confidential advice.
• Be selective. A colleague became so well known for applying for any and all openings that he was not taken seriously and judged to be unhappy.
• Apply only for jobs you would actually like to do next. Imagine if we wound up with a race among Herman Cain, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. Which would be really serious about wanting the job for what it was? Imagine if the winner declined.

Joe Grimm, a consultant and adjunct faculty member of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute, recruited for the Detroit Free Press, Knight Ridder and Gannett from 1990 until 2008. He now teaches at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He has run the JobsPage journalism careers site at since 1996. Questions about careers? E-mail Joe for an answer.


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