After I folded my startup and decided to “go get a job,” I felt like a failure. I had no idea what I was doing. I was felt like I was applying for jobs in which I’d have to adhere to the little column stacked bullet points in the job description and not do anything else. I started to look at myself and my accomplishments and worry I wasn’t worthy of the positions I was after. Before I started my own thing, I had freelanced here and there mostly on the editorial side. But working on a company forced me to learn a LOT in a very LITTLE amount of time, and I liked that. Would I be able to find a job that gave me that same opportunity to grow?
How could I convey to a potential employer everything I had to offer? Was I going to be able to tell them that I learn quickly and love a good challenge in that dreadful little online form? I knew my chances of landing an interview from an online application were slim, but what other option did I have?
After two months of blindly submitting online applications and trying to finesse intros from LinkedIn, I realized I needed to act fast. I needed to figure out a way to land a job within a month, but I also didn’t want to end up at any ol’ job, punching the clock and counting down the hours ‘til the weekend.
So I took that same energy and self-starter attitude I had channeled into my startup and hacked my job search:
1. I took matters into my own hands in a way I felt comfortable: blogging.
On October 22, I posted an “open cover letter” to my blog, expressing how I felt about cover letters (BORING!), and explaining why I was not only hireable, but a desirable person to work with.
I knew that my passion would come through in a way it couldn’t when being so strictly confined by bullet points in a job description. I didn’t specify the EXACT role, but instead listed what I could bring to the table, examples of how my skills / personality traits have been useful, and basically let the world of potential employers know I WAS ANTSY TO WORK HARD. I also knew that the type of responses I’d get (if any) would be from pretty forward-thinking, exciting companies that were willing to take a risk on a woman who was willing to put it all out there.
The blog post spurred a flurry of introductions and emails. I heard from startup founders looking to hire their 5th person, huge advertising agencies looking for account executives, growth-stage companies looking for strategists, and independent freelancers looking to collaborate. The response was incredible.
If you are looking for a job consider a version of this strategy that makes sense for you. Maybe an email to your group of friends. A post to Facebook. Or even a few well-timed tweets to get the ball rolling. What you need to do is tell the world that you are hungry for work and open to many possibilities.
But then Sandy hit, and everyone went quiet. So then came…
2. Following through on every lead…aggressively.
A major lesson I learned when my own startup failed was that my idea of what it meant to be “aggressive” enough was seriously hampered by my fear of annoying someone. When I started working on Parceld, I was nervous about “bugging” an investor too much, and when it came to the job-hunt, I was weary of flooding the inbox of the founder or HR person at a company I was excited about.
But then I thought about it: what did I have to lose? Would I rather seem annoying and risk being embarrassed, or actually land something I cared about? The answer was obvious. So I threw caution to the wind, and followed up religiously with leads [re: two-three times a week] until I got in the door. Within a few weeks, I had interviews with 8 companies.
It’s really easy to let manners and etiquette hold you back, but seriously, being too polite will get you nowhere in business. Obviously, be gracious in your emails and don’t send multiple in a day, but following up regularly is necessary. Most people working in tech and media are flooded with emails and it’s impossible for them to keep up with it all, and since they don’t have a personal connection with you (yet!) it’s easy to shuffle your email to the bottom.
3. I kept blogging to keep the wheels turning.
I wrote a post called “There’s No Such Thing As Funemployed” in which I stressed my desire to get to work, and how I was inspired by the rules Dennis Crowley enforced for himself when he was unemployed. At this point, I had already had 3 or 4 interviews, and these employers had read my initial open cover letter, and had an eye on my blog. I wanted to let them know that my original blog post wasn’t a one-time thing, but that I am constantly thinking about and reflecting on my situation. Just because I didn’t have a job yet, didn’t mean I wasn’t staying engaged.
Remember that even though you aren’t technically employed, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working and producing. Even if all you do is write a blog post about your struggle with being unemployed (like I did), that’s a great start. Just make sure that your blog post doesn’t fall into self-pity. Instead, use it as an opportunity to show off your work ethic and excellent problem solving skills–the same skills you look forward to putting to work for a future employer.
4. I kept the ball rolling with every company until it didn’t make sense to anymore. And when it didn’t make sense, I stopped.
As I started interviewing, I quickly learned where I could see myself, and where I couldn’t. I realized I didn’t want to work at a company with less than 10 people. I realized that I’m only willing to struggle personally and work for meager pay for my own company, or for an idea so good I wish I thought of it. So, I decided not to pursue the smaller startups. This left a digital agency and two growth-stage startups (both post-series A).
I finally got my first offer on November 9, and I was stoked. I had gone from having no leads for two months, to interviews with 8 different companies, to 3 really solid leads I was excited about, and now a job offer. And then, I got an email that same Friday from a former boss of mine, asking me how the job hunt was going. He asked if I’d committed anywhere. When I told him I hadn’t, but I had my first offer, he told me not to commit yet. He asked me to come in and talk about what they were working on and how they’re looking to grow the company. So I did.
Don’t be afraid to know what you want and go for it. And don’t waste anyone’s time (including your own). Of course you want a job, but if possible, take a job that’s a good enough fit that you will want to stay put.
5. Go with your gut. And commit.
Money is important, sure. Especially for someone who, to be quite honest, doesn’t have any of it. But I also knew what an amazing opportunity looked like when I saw it.
I decided to sign on with the Complex Media Network to help scheme, structure and develop their new Branded Content department (name is a work-in-progress), which will focus on packaging advertising in an authentic editorial context that puts the readership first, but will build brand equity and long-lasting partnerships for / between new and existing advertising partners.
This might soon look like an in-house agency, or it could end up a completely collaborative effort across all departments. The uncertainty is both scary and exciting as hell, and the entrepreneur in me is excited to figure it out and learn a ton as I go. It also helps that I’ve worked with this team before and know how dedicated they are to seeing their staff succeed. I like this. This puts great pressure on me, and I love feeling like it’s up to me to get shit done. I feel great about the team, they matched and improved on my previous offer, and as other offers came in, I realized I’d made the right decision.
I hope I never have to go through that again, but like all negative experiences, it fueled my desire to work hard and make a dent in the world.
Brianne Garcia is a writer, fashion lover, and general hardcore hustler. Follow along with her exploits on her blog and twitter. Her personal motto is: Always be hustling. Always be learning. Always be sharing. Always be curious.