Disheveled people can be very productive. Many of them make important contributions, but just as often, they struggle with recognition and job hunting.
Hal was a lawyer who was frequently a little late and disorganized. His clients loved him because he came up with brilliant solutions. But he worked for a very “buttoned down” law firm that treated him poorly.
He needed to leave, but his job hunting wasn't going well.
It was easy to see why. He was like the proverbial absent-minded professor. During conversations he often looked away and appeared not to be paying attention. His hair was shaggy, his clothes rumpled.
It was no problem to get his hair trimmed, and his clothes pressed, but his lack of visual and verbal contact was a difficult habit to break.
He decided instead to try to normalize it at the start of interviews by saying: "People have told me I have a bad habit of seeming to go away in the midst of a conversation. I hope you'll bear with me if that happens. What’s going on is I am thinking hard about what you’ve just said”. He said that while smiling and looking directly at the person.
Another tactic was networking with lawyer friends to identify firms who had senior partners with styles of operating like his.
Hal eventually found a firm that accepted him for his disheveled self and valued the very real contributions he could make. But to get there, he first had to button down his job hunting style.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)