Last year I wrote a short book about how to get a job in communications. The book was never published, I didn’t even try. It just sat in a Google Doc. Every few days I’d read through parts of it, make some edits, and then leave it alone.
I never felt like the book was finished. It needed testimonials, interviews, some third-party commentary, and more than just advice from me. But I never got around to making that happen.
But still, as I do every few days, I kept talking to people who were trying to get a job in communications. I helped a lot of people find the right connections, prepare for interviews, and get jobs. And I kept referring to things I’d already written. In a couple of cases I copied and pasted passages directly from the book when emailing these people.
Now, the advice might not work for everyone. But I know it has worked for many. I know that people have gotten jobs, in at least some part, because of the book. But still, it sits there.
No more. One day I’ll package it up and sell it. But for now, until I actually get the time or, more accurately, the guts to get it published, I’m going to be serializing parts of it here.
Please, comment. Tell me if you like it. Tell me if it’s terrible. And please tell me if you think there’s merit in going further with it.
Today, here’s one of the opening sections of the book:
Knowing what you want
Who are you?
“Tell me a little about yourself.”
That dreaded question. You fear it. It’s the question no one has the perfect answer to, but the one that gets asked in almost every interview. What do you say? Why would they ask something so awkward?
Well, here’s the thing: You knew it was coming, so if you didn’t have an answered prepared you only have yourself to blame.
So that’s tip number one: Know who you are and why you’re interesting. Imagine you and a dozen other people have all applied for the same job. Imagine you all have the identical education. Imagine you all have similar levels of experience. Imagine you all seem eager, and you all had well-written resumes. Imagine there’s nothing that immediately sets any of you apart.
Is the image clear in your head? That’s what applying for a job is. If you have found a job on a career website, that’s precisely what you’re up against, at best.
At worst, other people have better resumes, better experience, and more education.
The only thing that can set you apart in this situation is how interesting you are.
If someone asks you to tell them a little about yourself you shouldn’t be worried, or annoyed. You should be happy for the opportunity to explain to them what makes you such an interesting candidate.
But what if you don’t know what sets you apart from everyone else? Well, that’s a problem. And it’s one you have to solve.
Think about past jobs or experiences you’ve had that you have been able to apply in your daily life. Think about that personality quirk you have that your friends love (or find weird), and relate it to how that makes you a great employee.
Remember that Vonnegut quote? “Start as close to the end as possible”? Well, in my career, I have found that studying how writers approach problems, challenges, and issues can directly relate to my job as a communicator. When I read a great book or article, I think about how the writer was able to take complex issues and make them simple. I think about what they must have cut out, what they had deemed unnecessary, so that they could deliver a pithy narrative.
So what’s your thing? Mine isn’t really all that interesting, and it’s certainly not unique. But when I’m being interviewed for a job, I just know someone said they were very detail-oriented. Someone said they were very “Type-A”, and therefore great at seeing “the big picture.” In fact, I’d bet almost all the other candidates said that.
But I can safely bet that no one made a connection between their favourite hobby, their industry, and the way they see the world, in a way that makes them seem like they really care about the job they are applying for.
The next section, “Words to live by” will be posted next week.