The Fictioning Horror Sale

From the Authors


Original Essays

Powell's Q&A

Tech Q&A

Kids' Q&A



Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


How to Find a Job in Portland, Oregon

Two years ago, I moved to Portland without a job. I know, I'm sorry — everyone does it.Two years ago, I moved to Portland without a job. I know, I'm sorry — everyone does it. At least I didn't come from California, OK? I came from West Africa via Seattle.

And don't worry: I'm trying hard to fit in. It's hard to keep up with the local per-capita consumption of Stumptown coffee and Bridgeport ale, but I'm doing my best. More importantly, I'm self-employed, I pay my fair share of Oregon taxes, and I'm not competing for anyone else's job here.

Which is a very good thing, because I really have no idea how I'd get a job in this town if I wanted one. Earlier this year I heard the story of 300 applicants lining up to compete for an $11-an-hour receptionist job. Three hundred applicants! Most of them were qualified or over-qualified for the job, and many were college graduates.

Yes, it sucks. Really. And I wish it would change, but wishing does not cause anything to be different.

So here's some free advice, which I'd be the first to say might be worth less than the proverbial $0.02. If you're out there trying to find a job, feel free to do what everyone else does. After all, someone has to be the one person selected out of the three hundred. Then you'll have the best $11-an-hour receptionist job ever! Congratulations.

But if that's the best case scenario, I think you should reconsider. If mass-emailing doesn't work out, and @mayorsamadams doesn't offer you a job, try this plan instead. You have nothing to lose, right?

1. Stop sending out mass resumes. You've probably suspected that no one reads them anyway, and you're right.

2. Keep using Craigslist to find the world's best leather sofa, but stay away from the help wanted section. Just give it up, because it's not going to work.

3. If you need money now, look around your house and start selling things. There is an amazing site called (I know! So cool!) where you can list your items and other people will pay real money for them.

4. Figure out what you would do if there were zero hope of ever getting a "real job" again. You may think to yourself: Self, what do you know about business? But there's good news: many of the people running real companies don't know much about business either, so you're in good company, and you don't have to lose millions of other people's dollars to be in the club.

5. You can either sell a product or perform a service. To perform a service, think of something very specific you can do to help people. Set up a super-simple web site or blog using, and open a PayPal account if you don't already have one. Offer to help people solve a specific problem, and tell them they can pay what they think is fair. Later, you can get more serious about pricing — for now, the goal is to get started in 24 hours. Why wait?

6. If you'd rather start with a product-based business, see #3 and ask yourself, "What else could I sell?" You can either a) make things and sell them, or b) buy things and resell them. Sell them on the aforementioned eBay, on etsy (if you make it), on the same Craigslist you used to peruse for jobs, and on a cheap-ass website you make to get started. Again, waiting won't help. Getting started now might help, so why not try?

7. Note that at no point should you spend money when starting your side biz. Or if you must, spend less than $100. You don't need an MBA, you don't need venture capital, and you certainly don't need any more debt.

The most important point is: you cannot wait for someone else to solve this problem for you. You have to take matters into your own hands.

Leave that receptionist job you didn't really want to someone else.

Go out and create your own job, like lots of other people are doing, right here in Portland, Oregon.

This has been a public service announcement from your friendly East Side commentator, currently on tour throughout the U.S. and appearing at Powell's on Thursday, December 16th. Send fan mail and complaints to @chrisguillebeau.

÷ ÷ ÷

Chris Guillebeau is the author of the new book The $100 Startup, which provides a blueprint for freedom by building a business with a small amount of money and no special skills. The book is based on the stories of 70 ordinary people like Michael and Sarah, who both live and work in Portland. You can also read his free blog at

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way...
    New Hardcover $23.00
  2. The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your...
    Used Trade Paper $8.00

Chris Guillebeau is the author of The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

One Response to "How to Find a Job in Portland, Oregon"

    JB October 1st, 2010 at 10:39 am

    So sad.... I live in Seattle and work in telecommunications, and have been looking for a job in Portland forever... to no avail. We have tons of employers up here - but yet Portland seems completely devoid of jobs. How is that? Not to mention, the cost of living in Portland isn't much lower than Seattle - so how are people affording it? Lots of sales people working from home? Retirees? I'd literally pay someone $3K to find me a similar job to what I'm doing now for the same pay, in Portland, OR. Living quality in Portland is 10x better than Seattle - but maybe that's because there aren't all the big employers there? Hard to say.

Post a comment:

Get Your Gravatar

  1. Please note:
  2. All comments require moderation by staff.
  3. Comments submitted on weekends might take until Monday to appear.
PowellsBooks.Blog uses Gravatar to allow you to personalize the icon that appears beside your name when you post. If you don't have one already, get your Gravatar today!
  • back to top
Follow us on...

Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at