A version of this story appeared in Total Annarchy, my fortnightly newsletter that helps you be a better writer, storyteller, marketer. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.
* * *
This summer, millions of new college grads are vaulting into adulthood and trying to stick the landing on a mat slippery with uncertainty.
Here’s the data: Three in four college students who had secured internships or post-graduation work have had those plans skid sideways thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, according to a College Reaction poll.
So today I’m sharing two things for newly-minted marketers (or anyone looking for their next gig).
First up: How to find work.
Second: How to work.
I. How to Find Work
The ideas here are curated from my friend Peep Laja and used with his permission. I edited/added to them. Peep’s full post is here; I encourage you to read the whole thing.
- First rule of marketing: Realize that a marketer markets. Show people what you can do; don’t just tell them.
- Glow up your LinkedIn profile. Your profile should sell—not document your activity like a court stenographer.
- Actually use LinkedIn: Start posting daily. Share your ideas. It’ll feel awkward at first. Like no one is listening. So? Keep going.
- Build a landing page about yourself, centered on your expertise. “If you wanna get a job in DTC, design it like an ecommerce product page. If it’s SaaS, make it a SaaS features page.” —Peep
👉 My friend Stephan Hovnanian got a job that way. See his.
👉 Not sure how to create a landing page? Unbounce is a good place to start.
- Tell a Results story. Talk up obstacles. Say what you effed up. Show how you eventually triumphed, and ultimately how the business won. (How the business won is worth repeating. Make sure you include that.)
- Get testimonials from past managers and peers. A video testimonial is all the better: Video gives testimonials a heartbeat.
- Final rule of Marketing: Relationships and trust are everything in marketing (and in life). Ask for introductions to get interviews. Demonstrate you can use your network to open doors. “This is proof you can build relationships, and people trust you.” —Peep
II. How to Work
My first job out of college was at a business newspaper in Boston called Banker & Tradesman. I was a baby reporter covering banking and real estate.
I was an English major writing about the Federal Reserve and mortgage rates. I knew jack about either. To this day I remember the moment I finally understood what “the economy” referred to: That’s how much of a dumb-dumb I was. (Embarrassing.)
One day the editor walked up to my desk and said, gruffly: “I like you. You put a stamp on the envelope and you mail it.”
He spoke in a voice rough-paved with the 40 cigarettes he smoked each day. And in the five years that I worked there, that’s the only thing I recall his ever saying directly to me.
I had no idea what that meant. Stamps? Envelopes? Wut. My job as a reporter did not involve mailing anything. What does “you put a stamp on the envelope” actually mean?
You’d think that that as an English major I would’ve recognized the compliment for what it was: a metaphor.
The editor meant that I took ownership of a job and did what it took to complete it. I wrote the letter. I put a stamp on it. I mailed it off. Metaphorically.
That line (“Always put the stamp on the envelope”) became the first item on my How to Work list—now, decades later, rewritten many times and currently tacked onto the wall in my Tiny House-Office.
Here are five way to not be that jerk at work:
- Always put the stamp on the envelope. Take ownership of the whole job, start to finish. Don’t leave parts undone for someone else to do for you.
- Don’t put a monkey on someone else’s back. Every organization has problems. Be a part of the solution: Offer ideas and solutions, don’t just point out issues and obstacles.
- Always pick up at the airport. VIP coming to town? Volunteer to pick up him/her at the airport; you’ll make a valuable connection. This works metaphorically, too: Go out of our way to connect with a person—not just forge a business connection. Offer value first. Get value later.
- Poke your nose out. Raise your hand. Join. Take a seat. Try. Launch. Fail. Try again. Advocate for yourself, because no one is going to invite you.
- Don’t get too good at answering the phone. Train for the job you want, not the one you have.
Side note: As much as that’s a how-to list, it’s also a reminder not to be a jerk at work.
* * *
Related: The One Thing the Best Career Mentors Do (and an Ode to Mine)
You were lucky to be praised for “putting a stamp on the envelope” rather than be scolded for not “staying in your lane.”
High value information. I totally love it.
Jenny Decker says
These tips are definitely formed on real experience. I like it so much!
My first work experience was very embarrassing. And even though I wasn’t a jerk, I didn’t become a part of the team and didn’t make a real contribution. This is certainly not a universal guide but a reminder that you should think of work as a complex interaction of many people.
I like your writing style, btw.
Jill Hatcher says
I have a similar situation. My first job was terrible and with a terrible team. I tried my best, but my efforts were interrupted with a bad attitude towards me. In the end, I had to force myself to work. And now I work at a new company and I really like it.