I hit a rough patch this afternoon, and oddly enough, it touched a little bit on what I posted about yesterday. I recently read an article by Liz Ryan about a new sort of job search. Liz is an advocate for using "human voice resumes" and, instead of a cover letter, what she calls a "Pain Letter." A Pain Letter is where, having found a company you want to work for, you identify what need they have. That's The Pain. There's someone sitting up nights worrying about it. So you write a letter to that specific person, and say, "You guys are having a great year, aren't you? I see that you've got a new contract for framistat exports to Overthereistan; that could be a tough sell. When my last company had a new export contract, I found a way to double our production while cutting costs by a third, which meant we had a profit of $45 million more than we expected. If you think this is the sort of expertise you need to help your new venture, my contact info is on my resume."
Anyway, I mention this because what a Pain Letter does, among other things, is focus the hiring authority's attention on how you can help them, and not on "well, your resume doesn't have all the keywords." Of course, you have to back it up, but it can fast-track the process. So as I'm doing my search, I realize that most of the local jobs are service-oriented. Lots of truck driver, hotel night clerk, and retail store manager type jobs. And I started to panic. This area is a tourist area. Sure, there are other industries here, but mostly it's tourism. There's no one here for me to send a Pain Letter to, if I wanted to. Which means I'm probably going to have to find my job the old-fashioned way, which means I'm probably going to have to start at the bottom.
Now this is a known thing, with us military folks. We have lots of experience in our jobs, and we are given TONS of experience in managing people, almost from the very beginning. We really don't want to start at rock bottom, and honestly, we probably shouldn't have to. But many employers are wary, and since our military jobs don't translate exactly, they justify it by admitting we have experience, just not the right experience. Hey, it's their company. But today, that thought really bothered me.
So I took a break from my search, got myself a soda, and started talking with my wife, while searching the web sort of randomly. She said, "It's pretty obvious we're going to have to broaden our search area; why don't you start looking farther afield?" Well, that's not ideal, but it's true. So I fired up monster.com or something, put "writer" into the job title with no geographic limits, and hit "search."
Soon enough, I came upon a job that looked exactly like something I could be very happy doing. And, miracle of miracles, there are two work location options. One is teleworking. We wouldn't have to move? Well, cool! The other option... is San Francisco. That's one of the very few "hell, yes, I'll move there" cities on our map. But bad news... they want x years of experience doing y, they want a portfolio of z, and some other stuff. There has to be a way around this, I thought. This is a job for a Pain Letter.
I went to their website. It's pretty casually written, like the job ad was. Irreverent, even. Good, good. Keep digging. And then, jackpot. A whole page about how the founder discovered his passion for his industry, clearly written by him, very chatty, very informal. And at the bottom, it said, "If you want to work here, and you think you can fit in here and do a, b, and c, but don't see a listing for a job, write to us, and tell us YOUR story."
So I did. I keyed my tone to the tone of the founder's story. I told them MY story of how I found a passion for their industry. I told them why I had the expertise they wanted. I told them why they needed to hire me, and not someone else. And I pressed "send."
This may not have been the most sensible thing, but it felt right. It felt like the perfect way to connect with this company. If it wasn't, well, they weren't going to hire me anyway. But if it was... home run.
Just the act of writing that letter boosted my mood. Sending it wiped away all my earlier doubts. I had taken a positive step, and that's the most important thing I did today.
And then I went out for sushi with Susie. Cuz that's how we roll around here.