Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 63: Protips

[Expletives deleted]

The above was a phrase that permeated the initial official release of the Nixon Watergate tapes (sans, of course, the maligned Rosemary Woods' missing 18-minute gap). It was a shocking tidbit of a shocking saga - the president uses bad language! Scandalous!

Well, it was then. This was before people knew the truth about our presidents: that they are human. They lust in their hearts (Carter) and in real life (JFK and Clinton), they can be nerds (Ford, GHW Bush) or underachievers (W). They can engage in unethical (LBJ) if not downright illegal activities (RMN and probably a lot more).

But I digress. Today's topic covers some things to do and not to do when applying for jobs.

1) COMPOSE YOUR COVER LETTERS OFFLINE. Before today, I almost always did this. After today, I will always do this. Because I just had finished a long, killer cover letter moments before the thing timed out. And I lost all of it. [Expletives deleted] Write the thing in Word or whatever. Spellcheck it. Read it out loud. Seriously, that last one is important, because it provides a tone and you'll be surprised what you catch that spellcheck won't.

2) Research your target. Seems obvious, right? There are two jobs that I have had where I probably would have been better suited to do more homework on the front end. For one of them, I should have known from the start that this was a marriage that would fail. I love the NFL. And the opportunity to work in the NFL would be a dream come true. On the other hand, I don't know how I could go to work for someone like the Washington Redskins. They're the spawn of Satan.
Be that as it may, I would still work for them, and wear my Cowboys T-shirt beneath my burgundy and gold. But the initial point is key: know your target. What would be more frustrating than to actually have your talents appeal to a prospective employer, gain an interview, then blow it because you didn't understand the company well? Better to learn these lessons before finding them out through screwups. (See item 1.)

3) Start early. I made a point a few days ago to take on the day earlier. I had fallen into a languid "go with it" approach to sleep and it started to feel irresponsible. Yes, you *can* apply for a job at 3 a.m. But in most cases you won't be working that job at 3 a.m. So establish that circadian rhythm and mirror your expected work hours.

4) Be reasonable. I put in a solid 6.5 hours yesterday. No, that is not 8 hours, and yes, most work days are going to be at least 8 hours. But at the point that I decided I was more or less done... I was more or less done. You've got to know when you've hit the wall. Let's be honest here: Most people don't go to work and hammer for 8 hours. They find breaks. They do a walkabout, loiter in the break room, cruise the Web, chatter about whatnot around the "water cooler"... basically, they dither. It's generally accepted that people are going to have some productivity deadspots over time. While in a way this is disappointing, it *is* reality. People do this. Yesterday I had no additional brainpower after that 6.5 so I folded up the tent. I don't feel bad about it.

5) Vary the mix. I have not been as good about this lately, and it's time to alter the attack. That means if you keep going only to a few sources for your search, you're not giving yourself as good a shot as if you were hitting everything regularly. A great friend of mine is in sales. I like him anyway. In discussing sales once, he said being successful meant making 100 calls and hoping for 10 to hit, rather than uber-schmoozing 10 and trying to get them all. Duh, right? But apparently this is a philosophical argument among sales types... whether it's better to super service likely clients, or cut back on that a bit and try the shotgun approach.
Same with a job search. I don't think I can send out 10 resumes a day, the quality will suffer. But I need to at least expand my research habits. If I let a week go by without checking every lead, I might miss something. So spend time casting a wide net, but you only have to pull in the ones with fish. Get it?

Alas, I must go. I have to rewrite a cover letter. [Expletives deleted]

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